Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his decision to close three major downstate highways overnight, calling it a “very clean-cut decision” that allowed the state to clear the roads of snow and ice.
A winter storm brought significant snowfall, high winds and bitter cold to much of the state, with Cuomo’s administration deciding in advance to close Interstate 84, Interstate 87 south of Albany and the Long Island Expressway to motorists from midnight to 5 a.m. Friday. The driving ban was extended to 8 a.m. on I-84 and the LIE, while commercial traffic was kept off I-87 until then.
On a conference call Friday, Cuomo said closing the highways was the right move. Keeping cars off the highway allowed the state to do a better job clearing the roads for the Friday commute, he said.
“It’s a balancing of the risk versus the cost. I think it was a very clean-cut decision last night and I think the facts have actually proven the intelligence of the decision,” Cuomo said. “You not only had high levels of snow, you had freezing temperatures and you had blowing snow, high winds. The conditions were extraordinarily dangerous.”
The winter storm is believed to have caused two deaths across the state, according to State Police Chief Joseph D’Amico. Both were motor vehicle accidents, with one motorist struck by a tractor-trailer after having lost control in Warren County and another killed on the Southern State Parkway in Suffolk County.
While the worst of the snowfall has stopped, temperatures are expected to remain around zero for much of the day. Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said New Yorkers should remain aware of the warning signs for frost bite and hypothermia, including shivering, slurred speech and drowsiness.
“The best thing to do is minimize exposure to cold conditions whenever possible and to seek medical treatment when any of those symptoms occur,” Shah said. “Also, check on your neighbors who may be isolated.”