Tractor-trailers are being banned on the Thruway from the Pennsylvania State Line to the exit to Niagara Falls and as far east as Rochester because of the Lake Effect winter conditions hitting Western New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced late Wednesday.
The tractor-trailer ban begins at 9 p.m. Wednesday and runs through until 6 a.m. Thursday. The governor’s office and Thruway officials said eastbound tractor-trailers are to exit onto I-86 in Pennsylvania and westbound rigs must divert to I-86 via either I-81 or I-390.
The governor’s office said the driving ban deals with the likelihood that the conditions will generate heavy snowfall, high winds and mixed precipitation in Western New York, the state’s North Country region, the Tug Hill area and the western Adirondacks.
The governor issued a statement saying state resources are ready to clear roads as quickly as possible, but he urged motorists to avoid unnecessary travel in areas “that are going to be hit hardest by snow, wind and extreme cold,” such as Western New York.
The State Department of Transportation said it has 189 snow plows and 409 operators ready in the Buffalo area to clear snow with another 109 crews ready to redeploy from the Rochester area to the Buffalo area if needed. The Thruway Authority said it has 101 large and medium-sized snow plows, 175 snow plow operators and 35,000 tons of salt ready in the Buffalo area for storm response and recovery operations over the next few days.
State officials are also warning all motorists that in case of power outages at traffic signals each intersection should be treated as an all-way stop before proceeding forward or turning. State officials also stress that motorists and pedestrians must never assume a snowplow driver can see them. Snowplow drivers have limited sight distances with the wing blades of their vehicles obscuring their side views, and their vehicles are very difficult to maneuver or stop quickly.
Because of snow blowing that can be generated behind a snowplow reducing visibility severely or causing “whiteout” conditions, motorists must never attempt to pass snowplows or follow them too closely, state transportation officials said.