Forecasters predict 12-18 inches of snow, blizzard-like conditions; Travelers urged to stay off the roads, away from transportation facilities if possible
A major Nor’easter snowstorm – forecast to be one of the worst in recent years – is expected to hit the New York-New Jersey region early tomorrow morning, bringing heavy wet snow, high winds and blizzard-like conditions throughout the day. To deal with the upcoming weather event, the Port Authority today announced that it has taken significant measures to ensure safe, efficient operations at its airports, tunnels, bridges and PATH system throughout the winter event.
The National Weather Service currently forecasts the heaviest snow beginning shortly after midnight tomorrow and will continue throughout the day Tuesday, with snowfall rates hitting up to 4 inches an hour at times.
The Port Authority also is in contact with the states of New York and New Jersey, as well as other local and federal officials and agencies to coordinate response to the winter weather event.
The Port Authority’s Office of Emergency Management will open its Emergency Operation Center beginning at 9 p.m. tonight. It is staffed by key agency decision makers from all of the major facilities and will remain open throughout the duration of the storm.
In advance of the first snowflakes, the Port Authority has made extensive preparations for personnel and equipment at all of its facilities. Operations personnel will work 12-hour shifts to ensure that facilities can be operated safely. The airports, bridges, tunnels and PATH also have snow desks where key personnel analyze weather reports and deploy staff and equipment.
With a storm of this magnitude, airlines will cancel hundreds of flights at the agency’s airports, so travelers should check with their carriers. If warranted, the Port Authority also has supplies of cots and other essential items ready to accommodate ticketed passengers who may become stranded at the airports.
Looking ahead, the Port Authority said passengers without confirmed reservations should not go to LaGuardia Airport even after the storm ends. The agency has made extensive plans to accommodate what is anticipated to be significant numbers of LaGuardia passengers who need to rebook flights for Wednesday and later in the week. Given the major construction underway at the airport, the agency’s leadership and traffic professionals has put plans in place to minimize congestion and delays today and in subsequent days once the storm departs.
The Port Authority also urges bus travelers to check with their carriers before going to the bus terminals since many public and private carriers may cancel or delay all or most of their service if conditions warrant. The agency also may impose speed restrictions on its crossings, or close them entirely, if weather conditions warrant.
The Port Authority has the following winter weather equipment and supplies ready at its major transportation facilities:
· Hundreds of pieces of snow equipment at its airports, including melters that can liquefy up to 500 tons of snow an hour and plows that can clear snow at 40 mph;
· Dozens of pieces of snow equipment at its bridges and tunnels, including nearly two dozen plows and spreaders at the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest vehicular crossing;
· Thousands of tons of salt and sand for airport roads and parking lots, plus thousands of tons of salt for the bridges and tunnels;
· Hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid anti-icer chemicals at the airports, which prevent snow and ice from bonding to runways and taxiways, plus thousands of tons of solid de-icers, which break up snow and ice already on the ground;
· Plow-equipped trains, liquid snow-melting agent trains and a "jet engine" plow to remove snow from PATH tracks, and snow blowers, plows and spreaders to clear station entrances, roads that serve PATH's 13 stations, and various support facilities.
For up-to-the-minute updates on Port Authority crossings, airports and the PATH system, travelers are encouraged to sign up for Port Authority alerts at http://www.paalerts.com/. Travelers may also call 511 or visit 511NY.org or 511NJ.org for further information on highway conditions.
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