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Politics and Government

New York lawmakers say upstate paid for National Weather Service's inaccuracy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, flanked by Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente on his left and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, discuss the state's response to the massive snowstorm that blanketed the Mohawk Valley and other areas of upstate.

The joint effort between New York state and officials in Oneida County to recover from this week's massive snowstorm continue, but some lawmakers say the recovery was hampered by an inaccurate weather forecast that wasted precious time and resources.

As the snow started falling across New York on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a large amount of the state's plows and personnel were on the ground in New York City, where the worst of the storm was expected. The next day, they found themselves in Oneida County where as much as 40 inches of snow shut down the roads in cities like Utica. Some lawmakers, including Cuomo are now criticizing the National Weather Service for their incorrect prediction.

"I'm not going to say the forecast was wrong because I said that once, that the forecast was wrong, and I was bombarded with letters from weather forecasters from across the United States saying, how dare I say the forecast was wrong," Cuomo said. "But since I don't learn, let me just say the forecast was not correct."

Utica-area Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi says the National Weather Service knew as early as Monday that New York City would not bear the brunt of the storm, but no one was alerted -- leaving communities in the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier to fend on their own.

"The cities and towns have had to rely on their own plows and trucks to do that, which they are overwhelmed," Brindisi said. "If the forecast had been alerted a little sooner that the intensity would be in the upstate area, perhaps some of that equipment could have been moved ahead of time."

In a statement, the National Weather Service said their forecast did start shifting Monday. They opted to to keep their warnings the same because of uncertainty and to ensure continued vigilance. Brindisi says the residents of his district and others in the Mohawk Valley ultimately paid the price for that decision.

"This event is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime costs and other resources that were not budgeted for," Brindisi said. "There needs to be an accurate assessment and account of the monies that municipalities have had to expend to keep up with the snow removal efforts."

Brindisi and Binghamtom Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo are asking the governor to pay for the additional costs local governments incurred during the storm for overtime and any damages to municipal buildings.

"What we are looking for is if there is resources above and beyond what they had planned for that the state step in and help assist those communities deal with those costs," Brindisi said. 

When asked about picking up the local tab in Rome, Cuomo said they could apply for federal assistance, but he doubts this weather event would qualify. 

The governor has since deployed the state's assets, including 55 pieces of specialized equipment and members of the National Guard, to Oneida County.