New Jersey declares State of Emergency, braces for first snowfall of the season

A woman approaches the Hoboken Terminal of the PATH train system as light snow falls at the beginning of a snowstorm

A woman approaches the Hoboken Terminal of the PATH train system as light snow falls at the beginning of a snowstorm, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Ahead of Wednesday’s winter storm, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has issued a state of emergency beginning at 2 p.m. All state offices not responding to the storm will close at 1 p.m., said Murphy during his storm update.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has issued a commercial vehicle ban on seven interstate highways starting at 1 p.m.

While the department has strongly advised all residents to stay off the road during the snowfall, the restrictions include tractor-trailers, empty straight CDL-weighted trucks, passenger vehicles pulling trailers, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles.

The commercial ban covers these highways in both directions.

  • I-78, from the Pennsylvania border to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike)
  • I-80, from the Pennsylvania border to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike)
  • I-195, from I-295 to NJ Route 138
  • I-280, from I-80 to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike)
  • I-287, from NJ Route 440 to the New York State border
  • I-295, from I-195 to the Scudders Falls Bridge (Pennsylvania border)
  • NJ Route 440, from the Outerbridge Crossing to I-287

The ban excludes vehicles on the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the Atlantic City Expressway.

“Because so many people are currently still working from home and so many students are on remote learning we do not anticipate the same afterschool and rush hour issues that we would otherwise see from a storm with this timing,” said Murphy during his storm briefing Wednesday.

If a truck is already in the Garden State at the time of the ban, drivers are encouraged to wait out the storm at truck stops and avoid parking on shoulders.

Murphy said an exception to the ban is being made for trucks delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to some 35 hospitals within the next 24 to 48 hours.

“You get a free EZ pass, if you will, if you are delivering vaccines and the protocol is to go to the Office of Emergency Management to self-notify that that’s what you’ve got on your truck,” he said.

Six hospitals have already received vaccine deliveries, said Murphy, and a total of 47 hospitals are slated to have vaccines delivered by the end of the week. The shipments come as the state reported more than 5,800 new coronavirus cases Wednesday.

Forecasters say drivers should expect slippery road conditions and low visibility at the height of the storm, which will continue into Thursday morning.

The state is planning to activate more than 3,000 plows and salt spreaders to clear state highways during the storm, but officials say the intensity of the storm will make it hard to keep pace.

Drivers are reminded to let plows pass them.

Murphy said the entire state is slated to get a taste of the storm, which will bring with it winds from 30 to up to 50 miles an hour.

While the northern part of the state is expected to see the greatest accumulation, the southern half of the state is expected to see a mix of rain and slush with the threat of coastal flooding along the shore.

Central Jersey is expected to see a mix of slush and snow with up to a foot of snow.

James Giuliano, director of reliability and security at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, warned of power outages. He encouraged residents to charge their cell phones and other electronics ahead of the storm.

“Report any outages as soon as possible and please use extreme care when using any generators, and assume every downed wire is live and avoid that area,” he said.

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