Record-breaking snowfall and winds have stranded truckers and other travelers on a 132-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway that’s been shut down for nearly two days.
“It’s bad; it’s definitely an emergency situation out there,” said Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.
“I don’t know what the exact number is, but they have vehicles that are basically buried, both cars and trucks,” Hems said. “And it’s not just the Thruway. It’s other roads in the area.”
Cars and trucks are stranded on shoulders, in highway lanes and on access and exit ramps, she said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard is helping clear snow and rescue stranded motorists.
“They’re running against time, though, because there’s another storm system coming through that could dump another 2 to 3 inches of snow,” Hems said.
Tandem trucks were ordered off at about 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, and within two hours, the stretch of the highway running east-west through Buffalo into Pennsylvania was closed, she added.
Right now, the most important task is to rescue stranded motorists and get vehicles off the roads so they can be reopened, Hems said.
“I think their decision to shut the road was made in a fairly timely fashion based on the information they were given,” she added. “I think where the questions are going to be and what needs to be discussed to hopefully prevent this in the future is ‘OK, well, now you’ve shut the road down, what do we do about getting everybody off it and where do you put everybody that’s trying to get on it?’ ”