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N.Y. Thruway Should Have Closed Earlier, Highway Official Says

Arctic Blast Paralyzes Buffalo with Almost Six Feet of Snow 5:12

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blamed some motorists Wednesday for stranding themselves on the snow-snarled western stretch of the New York State Thruway — but the director of the hardest-hit area of the highway said he and other state officials blew it and should have closed the roadway earlier.

More than 130 miles of the state-spanning highway remained closed all the way to the Pennsylvania border Wednesday night, after storms dumped more than five feet of snow on parts of the region. All passenger vehicles had been evacuated, the governor's office said — but not before many motorists had sat steaming in their vehicles, short on food, water and patience, for as long as a day and half. The Thruway Authority said the drivers of about 100 large commercial vehicles were still with their rigs and were being checked on regularly.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Cheektowaga, east of Buffalo, Cuomo insisted that "the system was implemented, and the Thruway was closed on a timely basis" on Tuesday. "Even though it was closed, people still went on it. It was a mistake, but part of it comes back to citizen responsibility," he said. "People violated the closure of the Thruway," he said.

Looking back, however, Tom Pericak, director of the Thruway Authority's Buffalo Division, said the highway should have been closed earlier. "Certainly, we would have made that decision" had authorities recognized earlier just how heavy the snow was going to be, Pericak told NBC station WGRZ of Buffalo on Wednesday.

Cuomo acknowledged that "whatever you do, this is going to be an imperfect situation."

"Even if you close the road, there are going to be cars on the road. We've been accused of closing the roads too early in situations, and then people complained they couldn't get home," he said. "... There is no perfect way to do this."

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