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Cuomo declares state of emergency for NY as nor'easter advances

National Weather Service - Buffalo
A foot or more of snow is expected across central and northern New York from Tuesday morning through Wednesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a statewide state of emergency for the duration of the major nor’easter coming through New York.

Cuomo says snowfall totals are expected to be at least 20 inches and up to 2 feet in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson valley and Capital Region, and 10-20 inches for most of the rest of the state -- including western New York where portions of the Rochester area have been without power for the past several days due to a violent wind storm last week.

The governor says for all of those reasons, he decided to declare a state of emergency for all of New York, and order all nonessential state workers to stay home.

“This would be an historic snowfall for March,” Cuomo told reporters in a conference call.

Only state employees in the North Country will still need to report to work; the snowfall is expected to be less severe further north of the storm’s center.

In New York City, the MTA plans to suspend above ground service beginning at 4 a.m. Tuesday, though there are no plans to close the subways at this point. And Cuomo says he’s not ruling out shutting down the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad. That decision will be made early Tuesday morning and posted on line.

As for the roads, possible white-out conditions are predicted with snow falling at the rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour in some places.

“That’s above the rate that snow clearing machinery is effective,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that he wasn't planning on closing any major state highways, but that very well could change.

The New York State Department of Transportation workers will have 4,000 workers out to try to keep up with plowing, and 2,000 National Guard troops are at the ready, if they are needed. Cuomo says since all regions of the state will be effected, he can’t strategically deploy workers from other parts of the state, and that resources will be spread thin.

March blizzards are not unheard of. There were major snowstorms in March of 1888 and 1993, among other years, but’s unusual for so much snow to be predicted so late in the winter season. Cuomo, in the phone briefing, steered clear of any theories about why the climate might be changing.

“Mother Nature has been acting up recently,” Cuomo said. “I won’t opine as to the cause.”

But the governor says extreme weather is the “new normal.”

And he says individuals have to take responsibility as well, by staying home or if they absolutely have to travel, to take an emergency kit along.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.