BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Gov. Kathy Hochul told New Yorkers to finish their final holiday preparations Thursday and strongly consider moving up travel plans due to the impending winter storm will affect much of the United States.
“This is what we call a ‘kitchen sink’ event from Mother Nature. She’s throwing everything at us,” Hochul told News 4’s Marlee Tuskes. “Rain, winds, ice, snow – everything’s coming our way.”
The arctic blast is forecasted to hit Western New York on Friday morning, Dec. 23, bringing damaging wind gusts, potential lakeshore flooding and near-blizzard conditions at times. Wind gusts could approach hurricane force, according to the News 4 Weather team, bringing the potential for widespread power outages and waves on Lake Erie more than 15 feet high.
“The worst is coming Friday,” Hochul said. “Do your shopping today and tomorrow. Do your traveling [Thursday]. Avoid the roads. If you’re going to see family, tell them you’re coming a day early. This is how we can make sure the people are safe.
“Braces yourselves for a big one,” Hochul added. “Don’t jeopardize your chance of getting there. Flights are already being canceled due to the storm. It is a risky proposition to wait to do your air travel or your driving on Friday or Saturday morning. Thursday is your travel day.
“But everyone should be safe and cherish your families when you do get together for the holiday weekend.”
The state plans to bring in 2,200 extra utility workers this weekend “to get the power back on as soon as possible,” Hochul said, bringing the statewide force to 7,700.
“The challenging part is, if the power lines come down because of the ice, and the snow falls and the temperatures drop, that can be a real recipe for disaster,” Hochul said. “We want to make sure people realize that.”
In November, Hochul declared a state of emergency the night before the storm hit and barred commercial vehicles from highways. Hochul said Wednesday similar proactive measures are under consideration for this week’s storm and could be announced in the coming hours or days.
“I have to tell Western New Yorkers, and all across Upstate and everywhere, they do an extraordinary job listening to us,” Hochul said. “And because of that we’ve been able to keep people safe, allowing the plows to do their job without the distraction of having other vehicles on the road.”
Lake-effect snow is expected to continue falling across Western New York on Saturday (Christmas Eve) before shifting south on Sunday (Christmas Day). The hardest-hit areas could receive 12 inches of snow.
The Bills are scheduled to play at Chicago on Saturday afternoon in a game that is expected to be played in negative wind chills. The Sabres were scheduled to host the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night, but the game was moved to March. Hochul said Bills fans hoping to attend the game “should be concerned about airports.”
“To our loyal fans who want to go, I would say if you can start packing up and getting on the road Thursday, that would be the smarter thing to do,” Hochul said.
The storm is expect to send a blast of frigid air throughout the United States. Parts of Montana and Wyoming are expected to see temperatures in the negative-20s later this week, while Texas could see single digits. Parts of New York that don’t get snow are expected to see rain.
“This is going to be a statewide event, from flooding downstate to possibly a blizzard in the Western New York area. Fortunately we’ve been through this many times,” Hochul said. “Our team is experienced, seasoned, and we’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.”
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.