With up to 20 inches of snow, high winds and possible coastal flooding expected, states of emergency have been declared in municipalities around the region on Tuesday.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy imposed a statewide travel ban that took effect at 5 a.m. Tuesday. It applies to all state highways, and cities and towns around the state have imposed their own local travel bans.
“I would urge everyone to stay off roads except if your profession requires you to travel. Obviously we have a whole set of state employees who need to travel. Hospitals have similar individuals and other institutions will have those individuals. If we can keep it to that bare minimum of people who are traveling because their particular service is essential it will allow us to clear our roadways,” Malloy said.
As of 9 a.m. on Tuesday, there had only been a few accidents on state highways. “State police had recorded just 19 calls for service. Only six accidents. Thankfully none resulted in injuries or fatalities at this time. I think that’s a demonstration of what happens when people stay off the roads and we are very thankful for that,” Malloy said.
Bridgeport and Stamford declared states of emergency and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said Monday night that she will likely make the declaration, which would make the city eligible for federal emergency relief money. Schools around the region are closed.
Residents and businesses in Stamford are asked to remain on the even side of the streets to allow for the clear passage of snowplows. People who push snow into the streets or do not clear snow on the sidewalks in front of their buildings are subject to a $100 fine.
Elizabeth Carlson, a spokesperson with the Stamford mayor’s office, said, “We’re asking people to stay off the roads tomorrow to the best of their abilities. Our plows will be out and trying to keep at least the main roads open. But if you don’t have somewhere to be tomorrow, we’re really asking people to stay off the road.”
The Stamford Government Center and Neighbors Link, a local nonprofit, will remain open as warming centers.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim is expecting the snowstorm to put a lot of strain on the city’s emergency services. He said snow plowing and snow removal could take two days or more, especially if the weather doesn’t warm up before the end of the week.
“We’re gonna get dumped on with a lot of snow. It’s gonna be more snow that we’re gonna be able to keep up with. We’re gonna be behind. This is not pessimism, this is just reality.”
New Haven has issued travel and parking bans. Mayor Toni Harp is asking residents to adhere to the parking ban and to tell their neighbors to move their cars off the streets. Harp says she expects New Haven to be looked at as a model for the state for getting an early start in the snow removal process.
Rick Fontana, emergency operations deputy director for the City of New Haven, says the city is issuing a travel ban starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday until further notice. Fontana says the travel ban means only essential employees like hospital workers should be trying to travel to work in the blizzard conditions.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency statewide. He says to be prepared for road closures but hasn’t announced any travel restrictions.
Cuomo says the snow will fall faster than the plows can move it. "We want to clear the streets. We want to get the railroad working, we want to keep the subway working. And the lower volume, the lower traffic, the more the emergency responders and emergency personnel can do their job."
On Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano are also urging people to use common sense and stay off the roads during the storm’s height Tuesday morning.
“Those are conditions where you cannot drive. Those are conditions where it is exceedingly difficult for the plow operators to be able to move,” says Bellone, adding that the county has hundreds of pieces of equipment that are ready to remove the snow.
Mangano says he has been in contact with both the state and the towns and villages in the county to coordinate storm preparations. “You’re going to put yourself on those roadways, with snow plows trying to operate, emergency vehicles trying to get through. The chances of your getting into a serious accident are much, much greater than ever before.”
Mangano says they are watching the storm surge carefully, given the full moon, but have no plans to order evacuations.
And while the blizzard warnings were lifted in New York City and on Long Island, Cuomo said the sleet and rain might cause problems for tomorrow.
“The warning is, we have to watch the temperature as we go through the day and the night because the sleet and precipitation could turn into ice and they could make the morning commute more difficult.”
The National Weather Service is predicting 12-20 inches with 30-50 mile per hour winds. High winds are the problem in coastal areas of the region. With the rain/snow line moving westward, there are only a few inches of snow on the ground but a coastal flood warning is in effect.
Blizzard-like conditions are still of concern in the Hudson Valley. Cuomo said he will move some of the aid he had prepared for Long Island towards areas like the Mid-Hudson Valley and Binghamton, where the blizzard will hit the hardest.
About 85 percent of flights at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports have been cancelled. Metro-North service was suspended as of noon, although the Long Island Rail Road is running with delays and cancellations. The MTA has urged people to stay home as the height of the storm hits later this morning. The New York section of I-84 was closed as of 1 p.m.