ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Thursday for the fifth time this year, as a snowstorm caused airport delays and traffic issues for much of New York and the East Coast.
Cuomo made the declaration Thursday morning, allowing the state to deploy salt, plows and other resources to assist local governments responding to the storm. It originally applied to the mid-to-lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island; By the evening, it was expanded to the North Country, central New York and the Capital Region.
Unlike previous storms last week and in January, the Cuomo administration kept all state highways open as of Thursday afternoon, though Interstate 84 was closed to commercial traffic from the Pennsylvania to Connecticut borders around 2:30 p.m.
"The roads are dangerous," Cuomo told reporters Thursday morning. "I'm going to declare a state of emergency for the mid-Hudson, New York City, Long Island regions. The state of emergency, as you know, gives the state the flexibility to use some of its resources, among other administrative advantages."
Impending snowstorms led Cuomo to declare three states of emergency in January and two so far in February. Of those, two applied to the entire state, and three were targeted to specific regions.
By making a declaration, the state is able to use its plows on local roads, deliver salt and other assistance to localities and temporarily suspend certain procurement rules, said Howard Glaser, Cuomo's director of state operations.
State offices in the Capital Region and Catskills were closed early on Thursday as the storm intensified, closing their doors at 3:45 p.m. By 4:15 p.m., the state's offices in Westchester, New York City and Long Island had been closed.
Cuomo faced criticism from Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, last week for closing I-84 across the Hudson Valley, a decision Ball said led to more motorists using back roads during dangerous conditions.
On Thursday, Cuomo said the decision to close roads is made on a "case-by-case basis" and depends on the intensity of the storm and how much time the state had to prepare for it. Those decisions will always be second guessed, Cuomo said.
State Police Commissioner Joseph D'Amico said his agency recommended closing I-84 last week after they say "a lot of icing and vehicles that were running off the road."
On Thursday, State Police said they closed the highway to commercial traffic after two tractor-trailers had jack-knifed along the road in Orange County.
"Every time you close a road and nobody gets hurt, the second-guessers say, 'Well, maybe you didn't have to close the road,'" Cuomo said. "These decisions, if you do it right, it looks simple because no one gets hurt. The flip side is when you don't decide to close the road -- then you had people stranded on the (Long Island Expressway) in a storm not too long ago -- you have a situation where loss of life is a real possibility."
Cuomo said traffic was lighter than normal on many state roadways as many schools in the mid-to-lower Hudson Valley remained closed, and motorists heeded calls to avoid travel.