Officials in several East Coast states issued emergency declarations ahead of Monday night's historic winter blizzard, positioning them to seek federal help during the storm that’s expected to shutter public transportation, touch nearly 30 million East Coast residents and blanket many areas in as much as 2 1/2 feet of snow. A state of emergency allows state governments to aid local authorities in preventing or alleviating damages or losses, and to request additional aid from the federal government when their resources become exhausted.
States of emergency were issued Monday for New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. State governors urged residents to remain indoors if they could. "Driving will be virtually impossible for extended periods of time starting late tonight," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said early Monday afternoon. "Please stay off the roads. Everyone should expect impassible roads starting at midnight tonight.” He said state officials were prepping for potential flooding along the coast and that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) would shut down at midnight. Baker called on 500 National Guard troops to aid in the storm relief.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued their own states of emergency Monday. "I've authorized state officials to take all necessary action in advance of the storm, and my administration will continue monitoring conditions throughout the remainder of the storm,” Christie said, according to NJ.com. “I encourage all New Jerseyans to use every caution as they travel today and to remain off the roads whenever possible so that our first responders and public safety officials can safely respond to any emergency situations.” Cuomo said all government offices would shutter early Monday and remain closed Tuesday.
Cuomo said New York’s emergency declaration was for all counties south of Sullivan. The governor said some state highways might close later Monday night, according to NBC New York.
The governors gave authority to state emergency officials to redirect traffic or close roads. However, the emergency declarations don't mean that drivers will be ticketed for simply being on the roads, according to the New Jersey State Police.
Some travel restrictions were already in place Monday morning. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a statewide travel ban scheduled to take effect at 9 p.m. EST. "It is imperative that you have a plan in place to get home safely this evening before the heavy snow begins and stay there for the duration of the storm," he said.
The National Weather Service said the storm could be “life threatening” as roads become increasingly dangerous. The worst of the blizzard was expected to hit the East Coast late Monday night and continue through Tuesday morning.