Governor Cuomo: Stay Away From Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and St Lawrence River Today

August 5, 2017

ALBANY, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo sent out the following statement today:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged boaters to heed a Small Craft Advisory and stay off the water due to dangerous conditions on Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River. Wind conditions are producing waves of four feet or more and building to five to nine feet throughout the day. Waves later today and tonight could reach up to 11 feet from Sodus Bay eastward on Lake Ontario. Conditions, especially for inexperienced mariners and those operating smaller vessels, are dangerous. A Small Craft Advisory is issued when wind speeds of 18 to 33 knots are expected and waves of four feet our more exist that could be hazardous to boats and watercrafts.

“Any experienced boater will tell you to check conditions before you set out on the water. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are experiencing large and dangerous waves which could put boaters, and those who have to rescue them at risk,” Governor Cuomo said. “Stay safe by staying off the waters today for the safety of yourself and our first responders who have to operate during dangerous conditions.”

Small Craft Advisories remain in effect for the following areas:
• Upper Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor until 8 p.m. tonight
• Saint Lawrence River From Cape Vincent to Ogdensburg until 10 p.m. tonight
• Saint Lawrence Rover from Ogdensburg to St. Regis until 10 p.m. tonight
• Lake Ontario nearshore waters from Hamlin Beach to Sodus Bay until 6 a.m. Sunday
• Lake Ontario nearshore from Sodus Bay to Mexico Bay until 6 a.m. Sunday
• Lake Ontario nearshore waters from Mexico Bay to the Saint Lawrence River until 6 a.m. Sunday
• Lake Erie nearshore waters from Ripley to Dunkirk until midnight tonight
• Lake Erie nearshore waters from Dunkirk to Buffalo until midnight tonight
• Lake Ontario nearshore waters from the Niagara River to Hamlin Beach until midnight tonight

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo directed state agencies to deploy additional resources to assist local communities ahead of severe weekend storms across the state. Assets and personnel are being pre-deployed to potentially impacted regions, including Western New York and the North Country, as a strong cold front moves across the state beginning this afternoon and evening, triggering rain and thunderstorms that could produce strong winds and hail.

At the Governor’s direction, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and senior officials from state agencies were deployed to Regional Emergency Operations Centers, which are activated in Watertown in Jefferson County and in Cheektowaga in Erie County. In addition, 100 National Guard members have been deployed to the potentially impacted regions to assist local communities with response and recovery.

Lakeshore flooding and erosion is expected for the entire Lake Ontario lakeshore due to substantial wave action, and heavy downpours could also lead to flooding in low lying and poor drainage areas. These strong to severe storms will continue into early tomorrow. The Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Southern Tier and North Country Regions will experience the heaviest of the rainfall. While Lake Ontario has decreased six inches from its highest levels, it is still 29 inches higher than the same time last year and 18 inches above average for this time of year, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Emergency Management has been in constant communication with county emergency management officials in the region and the State Emergency Operations Center is operating at a Level 4 activation, which includes enhanced monitoring by NYS OEM personnel. Additional assets are readily available at strategically located stockpiles across potentially impacted regions statewide.

In addition, assets have been pre-deployed in the North County and in Western New York in advance of the storms.

In Western New York, assets and personnel include:
• 25 National Guard Troops with Humvees
• 1 DHSES Truck with pumps, hoses and lengths of Aqua Dam
• 2 DHSES High Axle Vehicles
• 2 DHSES/OFPC Rescue Boats with OFPC Personnel
• Additional OEM Personnel

Resources and personnel in the North County include:
• 25 National Guard Troops with Humvees
• 1 DHSES Truck with pumps, hoses and lengths of Aqua Dam
• 1 DHSES High Axle Vehicles
• Additional OEM Personnel

There are also an additional 50 National Guard Troops in Niagara and Monroe Counties on standby to respond to severe weather in impacted communities.

Additionally, New York State Parks continues to actively monitor the weather situation and has directed the Park Police and park personnel to take appropriate action to prepare for possible flooding at State Park facilities including clearing culverts and drainage areas and preparing equipment that may be necessary to respond to flood-related issues.

All State Police assets, including 4x4s, high axle vehicles and boats, are ready for deployment as needed. Troopers have been instructed to remain on high alert and to closely monitor flood prone areas for rising waters while on patrol.

The New York State Department of Transportation is actively preparing for high water by readying equipment and staff who will conduct flood watches, monitor bridges as water rises, and respond as needed. DOT crews have been actively working to clear culverts and drainage basins to help ensure they flow freely.

The New York State Thruway Authority is monitoring for potential flooding the region and are ready to deploy additional staffing and equipment to assist with any flooding issues as they develop.

Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo authorized the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to extend the 5 mile per hour boating speed limit on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River through Saturday, September 2. Vessels operating within 600 feet of shore must observe the 5 mile per hour speed limit to reduce impacts to shoreline residences and infrastructure caused by wave action and to promote safe boating, as many hidden hazards and debris have been covered by elevated water levels and can threaten boaters. Local municipalities may issue tickets carrying fines of up to $250 per infraction to recreational boaters violating the 5 mph speed limit within 600 feet of shore.

The best way to receive official emergency information, which can change quickly, is to subscribe to NY-ALERT (www.nyalert.gov) the state’s free, customizable, all-hazards notification system.

Boating Safety
• Life jackets are the lifeblood of safe boating. The U.S. Coast Guard reports 78% of boating deaths in 2014 were due to drowning, and 84% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
• Before setting sail, review a pre-departure checklist to ensure you have everything you need in your boat, including a tool box and first-aid kit. Once on the water, use common sense. In a split second, a situation can arise or the weather can turn.
• If you notice storm clouds, a sudden temperature drop or wind speed increasing, the best advice is to play it safe. Get off the water.
• Don’t drink: Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination,
• Take a safety course: 7 out of 10 boating incidents are caused by operator error.

Flood Safety Preparedness:
• Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry. Develop and practice a family escape plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.
• Program emergency numbers into the phones of each household member.
• Make an itemized list – as well as potential photo and video documentation – of all valuables, including furnishings, clothing, and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
• Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine, first aid supplies, and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers.
• Have a plan for your pets.
• Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.
• Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
• Find out how the location of your property relates to possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
• Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
• Check your insurance coverage. Homeowners’ insurance policies generally do not cover flood damages. Only flood insurance can protect your home against flood damages. You can purchase flood insurance whether or not you live in a mapped flood zone.

Travel Precautions During a Flood:
• During flash flooding, your vehicle can be the biggest danger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water.
• Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
• Driving through 6 inches of standing water can cause cars to lose control and stall.
• Do not underestimate the destructive power of fast-moving water. A foot of rushing water can carry away a small car and it takes just two feet of fast-moving flood water to carry away most vehicles including SUVs and pick-up trucks. Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
• Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
• If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.

Flood Safety during a Flood:
• Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts for information.
• If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly. If you are directed to a specific location, go there.
• Know where shelters are located.
• As a precaution prior to any flood, check basement drains to make sure they are clear and energized wires are off the floor. If flooding of a home or business has already occurred, contact your utility companies to have electricity and natural gas service turned off. In the event of flooding, never attempt to turn off electricity and natural gas service. Stay out of flooded basements. Energized wiring or outlets below the water line may pose a hazard; natural gas service in a flooded basement may also pose a danger.
• Bring outside possessions, including lawn furniture, garbage cans, and other movable objects, inside the house, or tie them down securely.
• If there is time, move essential items and furniture to upper floors in the house.
• Disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved. DO NOT touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
• Secure your home by locking all doors and windows.

More safety tips for staying safe before, during, and after floods and other storms can be found on the DHSES website: www.dhses.ny.gov.