Genesee County has gotten some attention from the Department of Homeland Security due to a severe weather watch for the next few days.
Department Commissioner Jackie Bray was heading this way to work alongside the county’s Emergency Management Services team, Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein said Wednesday evening.
The commissioner — whose most recent Twitter posts include news that Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency — planned to be embedded with county workers throughout the weather event, Stein said. Hochul’s declaration Thursday morning was for 11 counties in New York predicted to be impacted by heavy lake effect snow.
The counties include Genesee, as well as Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic had been banned on multiple state roads and state Thruway I-90 from Exits 46 to 61.
Citizens are to brace for the most heavy accumulations of up to four feet of snow in the Buffalo area. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages may occur as a result of the combination punch of snow and wind that’s been prevalent in weather forecasts. Hochul has urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel Thursday evening (tonight) and Friday.
Several people have been dispatched to combat the elements, including 70 operators, seven supervisors, four equipment operator instructors, four mechanics, one operations manager and one support staff in the Western New York region, the press release stated.
The City of Batavia is prepared, Manager Rachael Tabelski said, and she has been talking with police, fire and public works departments, and county, utility and state leaders all day to ensure storm protocols are in place. Tabelski was glad to see that state roads and the Thruway are being partially shut down early as a proactive measure.
“I think shutting down truck traffic early is very helpful … and rerouting trucks — We just want to keep as many arterial roads open as we can,” she said Thursday afternoon. “We will be determining early in the morning if we will close City Hall. We’re hoping to remain open to serve all of our residents.”
During talks with municipal leaders, Tabelski was reminded that commercial trucks that use the Thruway and other major highways have gotten stuck idling during intense storms, and that makes it nearly impossible for snowplow operators to do their jobs and clear snow. Rerouting that traffic well before a storm hits was a good move to help alleviate that issue, she said.
All major department personnel from the police, fire, public works, snow removal and water and sewer plants will remain open Friday, but the mall market slated for Saturday has been canceled, and the Yard Waste Station will be closed this weekend as a precautionary step, she said.
“I’m not saying we’re rusty, but it’s our first snowstorm (this season); we’ve got a great team in the city and county,” Tabelski said. “Stay safe, stay home, use your generator outside and not inside, don’t use stoves to keep warm, make sure you’ve got batteries … don’t light candles inside. We feel as prepared as we can be for one of these events.”
As for feeling confident that a storm of the predicted intensity — with quantity and speed of potential snowfalls — Tabelski couldn’t commit to that. “We just don’t know,” she said. But, per the popular adage, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
She also wanted to extend a “thank-you” to those city, county and state employees that are out there in the middle of the night plowing and clearing roadways “so that we can live our lives” and remain safe.
Batavia City School District and all after-school activities will be closed Friday, Superintendent Jason Smith said. The Batavian will be publishing an ongoing list of closures and cancellations as they are received.
So hunker down, snuggle up, and get ready for some wintry weather to safely endure from inside.
File photo of January’s snow clean-up, by Howard Owens.