Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that an emergency exists in the State of New York and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from a severe winter storm beginning on December 23, 2022, and continuing.
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Erie and Genesee.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Lai Sun Yee as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Governor Kathy Hochul earlier today submitted a request to President Biden for a Federal Emergency Declaration, as a result of the historic winter storm that began on Thursday, December 22, and continues to impact Western New York and the North Country regions, where the storm brought blizzard-like conditions, sustained wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour, and well below freezing temperatures through the holiday weekend. The State’s storm response continues this week as a multitude of the State’s emergency response agencies have deployed equipment and personnel to coordinate with and support local governments in impacted regions. Governor Hochul deployed an additional 220 National Guard soldiers to the Western New York region, bringing the total of deployments to approximately 430. With the response expected to continue throughout the week, Governor Hochul and local officials are continuing to urge New Yorkers to avoid travel in the impacted areas of Erie County, as well as in areas in the North Country experiencing similar conditions near Watertown. Once approved, the Federal Emergency Declaration will provide immediate federal assistance to support ongoing response and rescue operations.
“I want to thank everyone at the state and local public safety agencies who stepped up and worked throughout the holiday weekend,” Governor Hochul said. “I have spoken to President Biden who has agreed to swiftly approve our Federal Emergency Declaration, which will be crucial to assist our recovery efforts from this historic storm, and I thank our congressional delegation for helping secure this assistance. While we continue to do everything we can to help Western New York recover and await federal assistance, I want everyone in impacted areas to continue to stay off the roads and check in on loved ones and neighbors.”
Federal Emergency Declaration
The Governor submitted a request to President Biden for a Federal Emergency Declaration for Erie and Genesee Counties. Once approved, the Emergency Declaration will provide immediate federal assistance to impacted counties to support ongoing response and recovery operations.
Prior to the arrival of the event on Thursday evening, Governor Hochul declared a State of Emergency for the entire state, which remains in place. Additionally, New York’s emergency management agencies were in constant communication with the National Weather Service and local governments in the week leading up to the storm.
The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (including the Office of Emergency Management and Office of Fire Prevention and Control), Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, State Police, State Parks and DEC all pre-deployed resources to the Western New York, Finger Lakes and North Country regions ahead of the storm, and additional resources were surged to heavily impacted areas.
Numerous State highways in the Western New York region remain closed to all traffic, as of Monday afternoon. The New York State Thruway (I-90) remains closed to all traffic between exit 46 in Rochester to the Pennsylvania line.
Heavy snow is expected to continue to impact areas off Lake Ontario and Lake Erie this week. Another one to two feet of snow is expected east of Lake Ontario through Tuesday, with snowfall rates of three inches per hour on Monday. The Buffalo area is expected to receive up to an additional foot of snow over the next few days, before temperatures rise later this week and through the weekend. The Department of Transportation has surged an additional 100 staff to the Western New York, Finger Lakes and North Country Regions to assist with snow and ice removal operations.
Lake Effect Snow Warnings and Winter Storm Warnings are currently in effect for several counties in the North Country region. For a complete listing of weather watches and warnings in your area, visit your area’s National Weather Service website.
New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “We have and continue to work with our state and local partners to help New Yorkers recover from this devastating winter storm. I want to thank everyone involved in the response to date, and for their continued efforts as we remain active in search and rescue missions. Please adhere to local travel advisories that are still in place and know that Governor Hochul and I are working with our partners at all levels of government to ensure we get the assistance necessary to keep communities in Western New York safe.”
Safety Tips for Impacted Communities
Winter Travel Safety
The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents:
- When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.
- Make sure that your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving.
- Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions. Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars.
- Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children.
- Make sure your car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods and brightly colored cloth to use as a distress flag.
- If you have a cell phone or other communications device such as a two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling.
- Be aware of wind chill – wind in combination with the actual temperature – that can cause an increase of heat loss to the human body.
- Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long.
- Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.
- Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat.
- Take frequent breaks from the cold.
- If signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear, get out of the cold, slowly warm the individual and seek medical assistance:
- Frostbite: Symptoms include loss of feeling, a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
- Hypothermia: Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, and drowsiness.
- Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
- Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion
- If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm — STOP and seek help immediately.
- Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage.
- Avoid all downed power lines and report them to your utility provider for repair; assume all downed lines have live electricity.
- Use only flashlights for emergency lighting – candles pose the risk of fire.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors shut to keep food from spoiling. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Do not use a charcoal grill or generator indoors and do not use a gas stove for heat-they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide.
- Turn off major appliances to prevent damage from a possible surge when the power comes back on-keep one light turned on so you know when power returns.
Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths. Keep loved ones safe by following these important steps:
- Keep all combustibles at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Always plug appliances including space heaters directly into a receptacle. Never plug appliances into a power strip or extension cord.
- Make sure there is a working smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
For all non-emergency service needs before, during or after a storm, call 211 or visit 211nys.org.
For more safety tips, visit the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Safety Tips web page at www.dhses.ny.gov/safety.