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Governor Cuomo Holds Briefing on Extreme Winter Storm on Long Island

LongIsland.com

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a briefing on the extreme winter storm and the state's ongoing efforts while on Long Island.

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Governor Cuomo: The storm actually tracked further west, so New York City and Long Island will not get as much snowfall as predicted.

Photo by: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Long Island, NY - March 14, 2017 - Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a briefing on the extreme winter storm and the state's ongoing efforts while on Long Island. More information on the state's response to the winter storm is available here.

A rush transcript is available below:

Governor Cuomo: Okay, it’s my pleasure to be here today with County Executive Steve Bellone who you will hear from in a moment. County Executive Ed Mangano we have with us, State Police Superintendent George Beach, Adjunct General Tony German of the National Guard, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, State Police Major David Candelaria, Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor, Joseph Saladino who is a former colleague of mine and left us for Oyster Bay, but it’s a great place and a great town and we applaud him. Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll who you’ll hear from also in this program, and office of Emergency Management Kevin Wisely.

Mother Nature can be an unpredictable lady and she was once again today. The forecasts for the storm were that New York City and Long Island would bear the brunt of it, that’s what they had been saying for the past couple of days, we then deployed our resources depending on the forecast so we deployed very heavily in the New York City and Long Island area. The storm actually tracked further west, so New York City and Long Island will not get as much snowfall as predicted. The snow has actually turned into more of a sleet and rain and that is expected to continue throughout the day and into the evening. That does not mean that it is safe to go out. The roads are very, very nasty and the roads are very dangerous. We are still clearing the roads, many of them are filled with sleet and slush and it is very important for us to get the roads cleaned before the weather drops tonight and that slush freezes.

Then we have a problem for tomorrow’s commute. There’s been a very low volume on the roads now because essentially everything is closed, schools are closed, businesses are closed. That actually worked to our advantage so we can get the roads clean for tomorrow. And that’s what we expect. The LIRR has been operating close to schedule, it will continue to operate close to schedule. The storm moved further west so there is actually more snow in the Mid-Hudson Valley and in the western part of the state, Central New York, than had been forecasted. The Metro North operation, which is the railroad that goes to the Hudson Valley, that ceases as of noon today because snow fall is so high that it’s not safe to operate that, Metro North. But the LIRR will continue, the New York City subway underground will continue, New York City bus routes are continuing.

We do have very high winds. As we know from experience on Long Island, high winds mean trees fall, branches fall, means power lines come down. And that is endemic to Long Island. Until we figure out a way to bury all the power lines this is going to be a recurring problem. And with these winds we have had a number of power outages. We have about 5,000 in Nassau, about 1,300 in Suffolk last count. Hopefully they are not serious and the majority of those people without power will be returned tonight. That is something that we want to keep our eye on, obviously the temperature is dropping and a house without power is usually a house without heat. So we’re very aware of that circumstance.

We’ve deployed over 5,000 pieces of equipment statewide. 2,000 National Guard. We will keep a significant contingent here on Long Island but we'll also be redeploying some of that equipment to upstate New York where the situation is actually worse, much worse, than it is here on Long Island and much worse than they originally forecasted. Once again, County Executive Bellone and County Executive Mangano have done an excellent job and our teams have worked very well together. I hate to say it's because we've had so much experience working together in these types of situations but unfortunately that is true. You know, extreme weather is a new reality. My father was governor for 12 years. I've been governor for about 6 years. I've had twice the number of federal disasters than my father had in one half the time. There is something to the extreme weather. It is a reality and luckily we have superb personnel in Nassau and Suffolk. The first responders and the emergency personnel really are top notch and we have a good operation working together so kudos to all of them. We've had some minor mishaps but nothing serious.

Again I think that was because of the preparation and I think because the county personnel did their job and people heeded the warnings. Let us clean up the mess that's out there now and hopefully we're in good shape for the morning commute. But again don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Just because we didn't have as much snow doesn't mean it's not treacherous on the roads because it is treacherous on the roads. Stay inside. Watch it from through the window. It's pretty. It's not pretty when you're stepped into it. With that, let me turn it over to County Executive Bellone.

County Executive Bellone: Thank you very much Governor and I want to thank Governor Cuomo and his team, not only for their efforts on this storm event but throughout this season the coordination has been tremendous and the additional assets that the governor has brought to bear down here have been substantial and much-appreciated and very helpful in the operations that we've seen. We've been through a number of storms, as the Governor said, here together and in many of those cases, the storms have come in worse than predicted. I for one am very happy when we have the occasional storm that comes in a little less than predicted and that's what we've had here. We talked all day yesterday about the fact that we are on the edge of the storm here. Predictions up to 18, even two feet in some areas but this is what happens with the weather, it can shift, and we saw that happen here and the accumulations here were less than predicted just yesterday.

However, as the Governor said, those roadways are still treacherous, still dangerous out there. I was out there early this morning with Police Commissioner Tim Sini traveling throughout the county and you could see the shift from the snow to icy snow to a more rain and then back to sleet and what that has done is really created very icy, very slippery, very slick conditions out on the roadway and almost giving the deceptive impression that everything is okay out there because you don't see the accumulation but that is not the case.

I want to really thank the public because I think they took heed to the Governor’s call and our calls here at the local level to stay off the roadways and the result of that is we’re actually seeing less accidents than we normally would because those roadways have been cleared. No doubt, the police commissioner had the comment earlier that had cars been out on the roadway anywhere near what we would normally see there would be accidents everywhere because of how slick and icy these roads are.

So grateful to the public for having done that. We’re going to be out in full force today just making sure, as the Governor said, clearing those roads, because as it gets cold overnight, we’re going got be looking at icing on those roadways. We want to do everything we can to get them clear now to make sure we have a good commute tomorrow morning. So again our thanks to all of our first responders, our plow operators have been out there since the early hours, and many who will be out there tonight.

And thank you to all of our first responders and again to the Governor for the assets, the support, and the coordination. Thank you very much.

Governor Cuomo: County Executive Ed Mangano, who’s done a great job as usual doing this storm. Ed?

County Executive Mangano: Thank you, Governor. I want to thank the Governor and obviously his staff. Great communication, great support, we really do have a lot of experience fighting storms together and working together to keep our residents as safe as possible. Now obviously we dodged the blizzard bullet here, but that doesn’t mean that conditions are safe to go out and travel. As County Executive Bellone mentioned, and the Governor mentioned, as well as Councilman--as well as Supervisor Saladino mentioned, going out on those roadways is still hazardous.

We’re fighting sleet, dropping temperatures, black ice. And those are the major concerns. There’s been a number of accidents in Nassau County. As a matter of fact, on the ride out here we watched a car spin out on the other side of the LIE, just going straight, and lost control. So it is very dangerous out there. You can’t see the dangers, as County Executive Bellone mentioned because they’re masked. But the fact of the matter is that black ice is out there. So don’t take to the roadways. Let the outstanding DPW crews and Nassau County take care of the roadways, get them salted, sanded. When the sleet stops, we’ll be able to take away the slush and make safer conditions. Stay in touch with the media so we can give advisories in the morning commute.

And I want to thank everybody, including our emergency management team, our police department, volunteer firefighters, and certainly our snow fighters for all of the work they’re doing, and thank you to our residents for staying off the roadways to a large degree. Let’s get through this storm. Stay safe. And work together. Stay in tune with the media.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much to both County Executives. Again, all the first responders, all the emergency personnel, who have done a great job. One announcement. Interstate 84, which is located in Westchester to Connecticut, that road is notoriously subject to weather conditions. We are going to issue a travel ban at 1:00 for all of I-84. Travel ban meaning no trucks, no cars, only emergency vehicles. What we call red plate vehicles. Cars that are for first responders or marked emergency management cars. So there’ll be a full travel ban on I-84 that goes into effect at 1:00. Now, let me give you Commissioner Matt Driscoll, who’s largely been responsible for the deployment of the operations statewide.

Commissioner Driscoll: Thank you, Governor. As the Governor indicated earlier, we had in preparation for this event, shifted lots of resource from across the state here on Long Island. Although we have shifted some of those resources back out today, we still have a very large presence on the ground here, so we’ll run through them quickly for you. We have right now currently engaged 265 large plows across Long Island, 38 large loaders, seven extra loaders. Although we’ve shifted resources we still have a great presence here as well. We have 397 in Region Ten, that’s Long Island, personnel here year-round. They’re actively engaged. We still have 70 folks from upstate involved, so boots on the ground, we have 467 total operators and supervisors as we speak here for this effort.

Governor Cuomo: Questions for myself or any of my colleagues?

Question: Sir, is complacency among the public something you’re concerned about?

Governor Cuomo: Not complacency. I’m afraid that people may look out the window and say, “Oh, it doesn’t look that bad. We didn’t get the snow we were expecting,” and then venture out. First, what they’re seeing is deceptive. The roads, as you heard from both county executives, are very dangerous. Ice is more dangerous that snow, right? If any of us had a choice between 16 inches of snow and sleet and ice, we’d choose 16 inches of snow. It’s easier to clear. The roads are dangerous because there is ice, it’s deceptive. We want to make sure that people understand and don’t let out their guard and venture out. Also, not only is it dangerous for them to be on the road, but then you block the emergency personnel from doing their jobs. We have the plows here now. Let us plow the highways and clean the roads, so that tomorrow for commute, we’re in good shape. Because if we don’t keep clear the roads and the temperature drops, that slush will turn into ice. This will then become a multiday event. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.

Question: The ice can present a significant problem. Are you confident the railroad will continue to run as quickly?

Governor Cuomo: The railroad has been running a full schedule despite the weather conditions. They prepared the past two days and it’s been operating very well. If the weather stays like this, I believe the long island railroad will stay on schedule. If the weather degrades, then you’re right, if the temperature drops too low and the third rail ices and the track ices, then we have a real problem with the Long Island Railroad. But so far, so good. Thank you very much.