Citing an inability for plows to keep up with the high rate of snow blanketing Long Island, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will institute a travel ban on the Long Island Expressway and parkways on LI.

The ban went into effect at 2:30 p.m. The Long Island Rail Road also ceased operations at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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“The plows literally can’t keep up,” Cuomo told reporters at a press conference, where he was joined by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his counterpart in Suffolk County, Steve Bellone.

The governor acknowledged that officials want to “keep roads open, you want to keep trains running,” but he said public safety is his No. 1 concern.

The travel ban will be conducted in an “orderly way,” Cuomo said, so people who are at work can head home.

The governor offered a stern message to anyone thinking about driving, and implored residents to let the plows do their job. Anyone caught on the LIE or  parkways during the travel ban could face a traffic infraction, Cuomo said. The governor did not say when the ban would expire.

A blizzard warning is currently in effect until 7 a.m. Sunday.

Officials had spent most of the morning urging residents to shelter at home and stay off the roads. The powerful Nor’easter that barreled into Long Island late Friday night could end up dumping up to two feet of snow on Long Island. Plows have been unable to keep up with the high rate of snow, officials said. The National Weather Service said snow is falling at a rate of 3 inches per hour.

“We will be keeping our county roadways as clear as possible because we have to get to our hospitals and other emergency services,” Mangano told reporters.

As for the Long Island Rail Road, there will be an orderly shutdown of service beginning at 4 p.m. The railroad is currently experiencing system-wide delays.

Meanwhile, potential flooding remains a top concern among officials in both counties.

“We have a big concern with coastal flooding post-Superstorm Sandy,” Bellone said. “We have seen these low-lying areas…flooding more frequently than we have ever seen before.”

Officials are closely monitoring Saturday evening’s high tide cycle. There have been no reports of significant flooding as of yet.

“The wind is compounding the situation,” Cuomo said. “The most dangerous pitch from Mother Nature is the flooding. That is the greatest threat to public safety. That does the most damage.”

Cuomo earlier Saturday morning declared a state of emergency for Nassau and Suffolk counties.

(Photo credit: New York State Governor’s Office)

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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian