Update: Mayor Issues State of Emergency Restricting Travel ahead of Snow Storm


Residents clear snow around Reservoir Oval East in Norwood in December 2020.
Photo by Síle Moloney

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a state of emergency on Sunday, Jan. 31, ahead of Monday’s expected snow storm, including restrictions on non-essential travel beginning at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. The mayor warns New Yorkers to refrain from travel as the storm’s intensity worsens throughout tomorrow. The latest forecasts anticipate approximately 16-22 inches of snow and near-blizzard conditions across New York City.


“Make no mistake: this storm will bring heavy snowfall, and it will make travel dangerous in every neighborhood in our city,” said de Blasio. “New Yorkers should stay home, keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles, and let our plows work to keep us all safe. This order will be mandatory at 6:00 A.M. tomorrow, and everyone should make necessary preparations this evening.”


According to latest estimates from New York City Emergency Management, the city will see blizzard-like conditions periodically, with up to 2-4 inches of snowfall per hour from 10 a.m. on Monday. The city will see sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 40 to 50 mph.


The following employment sector categories are exempt from these travel restrictions:

  • Public transit workers
  • First responders
  • Healthcare and home-care workers
  • Police officers
  • Peace officers
  • Any other workers engaged in vital City services
  • Delivery of food, medical supplies, or fuel
  • News media
  • Hotel workers
  • Homeless shelter and outreach workers
  • Utility workers performing emergency repairs
  • Persons employed by pharmacies, grocery stores (including all food and beverage stores), convenience stores, bodegas, gas stations, laundromats, hotels, restaurants/bars, and hardware stores
  • Individuals seeking medical treatment or medical supplies
  • For-hire vehicles, used to transport persons employed to perform any of these services to and from their places of employment


In addition, New York City Emergency Management Unit (EM) has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory which will be in effect for areas in northern Queens, Manhattan, and The Bronx from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, then 8 p.m. Monday through 4 a.m. Tuesday. A Coastal Flood Advisory means that conditions favorable for flooding are expected to develop. This could result in shallow flooding of some roads and low-lying property including parking lots, parks, lawns, and homes or businesses near the waterfront. Coastal residents should be alert for later statements or warnings and take action to protect property.


If travel is necessary, EM advises New Yorkers to use mass transit where possible, to wear a face covering, and to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additionally, the agency advises that if driving is necessary, allow for extra travel time, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency, and exercise extreme caution.


NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell said, “We advise you to avoid any unnecessary travel. We will continue to work closely with our partners to prepare for and respond to any impacts from the inclement weather.” Meanwhile, Edward Grayson, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation, said, “Forecasts indicate this will be a challenging, potentially dangerous snow event. We ask all New Yorkers to stay off the streets as much as possible during this storm as we work with our partner agencies to make them safe and passable again.”


Winter Storm Safety Tips

  • Stay off the roads as much as possible. If you must travel, use mass transit, and check mta.info for scheduling. Remember to wear a face covering and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • If you must drive, drive slowly. Allow for extra travel time, and exercise caution when traveling. Use major streets or highways for travel whenever possible.
  • Pedestrians should exercise caution and avoid slippery surfaces; some ice may not be visible. Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.
  • Take care when walking on snow and ice, especially if you are an older adult. Seniors should take extra care outdoors to avoid slips and falls.
  • Have heightened awareness of cars, particularly when approaching or crossing intersections.
  • If you have to go outdoors, wear dry, warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered. Wear a hat, hood, scarf, and gloves. Stay alert for signs of hypothermia, like intense shivering or dizziness, and anyone who experiences these symptoms should seek medical attention or call 911.
  • Be careful when shoveling snow. Follow your doctor’s advice if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who may need help in cold weather — especially older adults or people with disabilities — to make sure they are safe inside and have heat.
  • Immediately tell your building superintendent, property manager or owner if you do not have heat. Call 311 if the problem is not fixed quickly and go to a warm place, such as a friend’s or family member’s home (while maintaining proper physical distance and wearing a face mask). If you stay at home, wear layers of clothing.
  • Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.  Do not heat your home with a gas stove or oven, charcoal grill, or kerosene, propane, or oil-burning heaters.
  • If you live in a flood-prone area, keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber on hand to help protect your home.
  • When outside, avoid walking and driving through flooded areas. As few as six inches of moving water can knock a person over. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling. One or two feet of water can carry away a vehicle.


Power Outages

  • Charge cell phone batteries.
  • Turn your refrigerator and freezer to a colder setting. If you lose power, items that need refrigeration will stay cooler for longer.
  • If you lose power & have a disability/access and functional needs or use Life Sustaining Equipment (LSE) & need immediate assistance, dial 911.
  • Stay informed. Before and during an emergency, the City will send emergency alerts and updates to New Yorkers through various channels, including Notify NYC. New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for Notify NYC, the City’s free emergency communications program. To sign up for Notify NYC, download the free mobile application, visit NYC.gov/NotifyNYC, call 311, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.

For additional safety tips, visit NYC.gov/SevereWeather and the Health Department’s online infographic.


Vaccinations and Testing Suspended

As per State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, as a result of the impending snow storm on Feb. 1, vaccinations at New York City-run sites for Feb. 1 have been postponed. People will be notified by the City on how to reschedule their appointments. In addition, all NYC Test and Trace sites will be closed on Feb. 1. This includes pop-up testing sites, mobile testing sites, self-testing sites, and T2-operated vaccination sites.


Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) had also issued a separate Snow Alert for Sunday, Jan. 31 beginning at 7 p.m., with snowfall expected to begin Sunday evening and to continue into Tuesday morning. All winter weather information and information about the City’s response to the storm can be found by visiting the City’s Severe Weather website at www.nyc.gov/severeweather or by calling 311.


As reported by Norwood News, the MTA had already encouraged residents not to travel unless necessary and had provided information on travel services for those who do need to get to their destinations. During a Snow Alert, DSNY coordinates with NYC Emergency Management and the Department of Transportation on snow clearing protocol in accordance with each agency’s written snow plan. All relevant city agencies have been notified of the snow alert.


Operations Update

DSNY officials said the agency workers and equipment are prepared. Salt spreaders are filled and ready to go and have started pretreating roadways already. Additionally, the department’s collection trucks have been turned into snow plows, ready to plow once two inches of snow has fallen. The department has more than 2,000 total vehicles equipped with plows, including salt spreaders. Furthermore, the department has already used its “brine trucks” to apply liquid salt to some roadways and bike lanes. The brine, spread only before precipitation begins on dry streets, forms a barrier on the streets and helps keep snow and ice from accumulating.

Trash/Recycling Collection

The sanitation workers who collect trash and recycling are the same sanitation workers who plow and salt the streets. Therefore trash and recycling collection will be delayed during and after snow operations. While residents may put material out at the curb following their normal schedule, snow operations take priority and delays should be expected.

Alternate Side Parking

In order to facilitate roadway clearing, Alternate Side Parking regulations will be suspended Monday, Feb. 1 and Tuesday, Feb. 2. Meters will be in effect.

Guidance for Open Restaurants

Open Restaurants roadway dining is suspended all day Monday, Feb. 1. Additionally, restaurants should remove or secure furniture, and remove electric heaters. Remove the tops of structures if possible, or regularly clear snow off of structures to prevent damage. The City will notify restaurants when they may reopen roadway seating for outdoor dining. Based on the current forecast, the City estimates it may resume Tuesday, but this may change based on actual accumulations and roadway conditions.


Restaurant owners may find additional information to prepare their spaces for snow here.

Protected Bike Lanes

The department used its “brine trucks” to apply liquid salt to some roadways and bike lanes starting Saturday evening to help improve safety. City officials said they take the safe passage of cyclists seriously, especially the essential workers who need to be out in any weather. However, the department’s initial focus during an active snow event is to keep roadways clear for emergency vehicles to ensure New Yorkers never lose access to critical medical, fire and police services. Plowing and salting of bike facilities will begin after the emergency roadway work is underway. Protected bike lanes (PBLS) on main avenues will be addressed first after the end of snowfall, and PBLs on other streets will be addressed within 24-72 hours.

Snow Clearing Information

As a reminder, property owners, including restaurants with outdoor dining structures, may NOT push snow into the street, including onto bike lanes. This impedes snow clearing operations and is illegal. Snow may be moved against the building, to the curb line, or areas on private property. Sidewalks should be passable for all pedestrians, including a minimum 4-foot clear path, where possible.


New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for Notify NYC, the City’s free emergency notification system. Through Notify NYC, New Yorkers can receive phone calls, text messages, and emails alerts about severe weather events and emergencies. To sign up for Notify NYC, call 311, visit www.nyc.gov or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.


Find information on DSNY snow operations, along with residents’ responsibilities during and after snow, go to nyc.gov/snow.


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