WXXI AM News

Governor Cuomo, local officials work on storm preparations

Feb 23, 2019

Gov. Cuomo speaking Saturday at the National Guard facility on Patriot Way in Rochester.
Credit April Franklin / WXXI News

Governor Andrew Cuomo stopped by the National Guard facility on Patriot Way near the Rochester Airport on Saturday to talk about storm preparations.

There is a high wind warning in effect for much of the region from Sunday into Monday, with wind gusts of up to 75 mph possible.

Those kinds of winds can cause widespread damage, including bringing down trees, utility poles and power lines.

A March 2017 windstorm left more than 250, 000 utility customers without power -- many of them for days -Cuomo says since then, the state has taken steps to make sure the utility companies are prepared.

“We have made it clear to them in the aftermath of what I believe were unacceptable recovery efforts in the past, that they have to staff up with the personnel and the equipment to be able to respond to this type of emergency.”

Cuomo has called on the agency that helps regulate the level of the Great Lakes to take steps to ease any possible flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

“We have complained mightily and bitterly to the IJC, the International Joint Commission, that regulates the level of the lake. We’ll be sending them a letter today asking them to immediately expedite the release of water from the lake.”

Lake Ontario levels currently are higher than usual. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said this past week it already has increased the flow of water out of the lake in an effort to help that situation.

Cuomo says one advantage to this storm is that it is relatively contained to one section of the state.

“We’re sending personnel and equipment from downstate New York to the Western New York area, to be able to supplement what happens here in western new York. We’re also asking other states, surrounding states, to have their utility crews on standby,” Cuomo said.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo says the City of Rochester already has plans to offer shelter to residents who need it at the David Gantt community center starting at 9am on Sunday.

“We’re also ready to open a county shelter staffed by our Office of Emergency Management personnel, as needed; potentially one on the east side of the county and one on the west side of the county, and that again, that will be based on whatever is necessary to make sure that our residents have a place to go.”

Dinolfo says she has asked Monroe Community Hospital to be prepared to house residents with special medical needs if those residents are forced to vacate their homes.

Monroe County is also working with local ambulance companies to ensure that oxygen is on hand for anybody who may need it.

Monroe County Parks and parks facilities, including the Seneca Park Zoo, will be closed on Sunday,  due to the forecasted high winds.
Cancellations include the second day of Polar Bear Awareness Weekend which had been scheduled at the Seneca Park Zoo.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren says the city's Department of Environmental Services is preparing to deal with any cleanup efforts.

“Our DES teams will be on hand 24 hours a day just to make sure that if power lines are coming down and trees are coming down that we are cleaning them up aggressively.

The David F. Gantt R-Center, located at 700 North Street, will open as a warming center and temporary warming shelter for those impacted by the wind storm in partnership with the American Red Cross of Greater Rochester.

The center will open at 9 a.m. on Sunday and remain open around the clock for as long as it is needed.
Residents who lose power or heat are invited to come down and warm up. Snacks and water will be provided.

Congressman Joe Morelle, who also gathered with the officials on Saturday, said that he will push for federal disaster help as needed once officials have assessed the amount of storm damage.

Dinolfo says she will be prepared to declare a state of emergency on Sunday and take other measures including restricting travel if that becomes necessary.

Governor Cuomo has directed the Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority to ban empty tractor trailers and empty tandems from portions of the New York State Thruway and some interstate highways in the Western New York, Central New York and Finger Lakes Regions beginning 10am on Sunday.

Livingston County has issued a travel advisory that goes into effect at 1:00 p.m on Sunday. Sheriff Thomas Dougherty says it does not restrict travel but does advise hazardous conditions may be encountered and to use caution.

The Town of Greece will open the main branch of its library at the town hall campus at Noon today to serve as a warming center for anyone without power.

Town Supervisor Bill Reilich says they are prepared to open the Town of Greece Community and Senior Center also  if needed.