Sunday August 28, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- During the 75 years it has performed at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra had never canceled a concert.

Until today.

That's how powerful Hurricane Irene is expected to be when it arrives in the Berkshires this morning.

On Saturday, the BSO canceled all of today's activities at Tanglewood, including the performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, in anticipation of the storm, which is expected to bring high winds and heavy rains to the Berkshires for 18 to 24 hours. Heavy rain was expected to begin over the Berkshires on Saturday night.

As of Saturday afternoon, Irene was expected to make landfall in New England between 8 and 11 a.m. today in the vicinity of Bridgeport, Conn. Although the storm track continued to shift slightly on Saturday, the eye of the storm was expected to pass through Western Massachusetts somewhere between Pittsfield and Springfield.

"If it shifts 15 to 20 miles to the west it could be partly over Berkshire County," said George Maglaras, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

Considered a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday, Irene is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hits this area, but Maglaras said it should still be taken seriously. Tropical storm force winds range from 39 to 74 miles per hour, he said.

"They can cause significant tree damage," he said. "You don't want to be out there. It's not going to pick up cars like a Category 4 (hurricane), but minor stuff will be blowing around."

State Rep. candidate Patricia "Pam" Malumphy and her campaign team spent Saturday removing all of her campaign lawn signs in Pittsfield in anticipation of the storm.

"I don't want my lawn signs to be harmful to anyone or anyone's home," said Malumphy, who is running as an independent.

Western Massachusetts Electric Co. expects widespread power outages to take place, and believes that restoration could take more than a week. WMECO has brought in crews from as far away as Michigan and Texas to assist with the cleanup efforts. The state Department of Fire Services has made seven hazardous materials teams available for duty throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts.

Maglaras said the Berkshires were expected to receive between four and eight inches of rain, and primarily northerly winds because the eye is expected to pass just east of the county. Wind gusts of 60 to 70 miles per hour will occur primarily in valleys that act as wind funnels.

The Berkshires should experience significant wind effects for 12 to 18 hours, and rain between 18 and 24 hours, Maglaras said. As much as 10 inches of rain is possible in the county's higher terrain. A flood watch for the Berkshires will be in effect through late tonight.

Mayor James M. Ruberto declared a state of emergency in Pittsfield Friday afternoon after meeting with city and emergency management officials.

"Please stay home, and off the roads, and stay away from downed trees, wires, trees and puddles," said Pittsfield Fire Chief and Emergency Manager coordinator Robert Czerwinski.

Several Berkshire cultural organizations had already canceled their Sunday programming by Friday, but they were joined on Saturday by the BSO, the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket.

The BSO decided to wait until Saturday to cancel Sunday's performance to make sure it made the right decision. The final concert of the BSO's 2011 summer season will not be rescheduled. Patrons will be offered substitute tickets to a future performance by the orchestra.

"Speaking for recent history, we've been very fortunate in that we've never had a storm of this magnitude that warranted canceling a concert," said BSO spokeswoman Bernadette Horgan in a written statement.

"Since these storms can change significantly as they approach different areas, we wanted to make sure that the cancellation was absolutely warranted before we made a final decision," she said.

Today was also the final day of performances at Jacob's Pillow. All events have been canceled. Ticket holders will be contacted and credits for Festival 2012 will be issued.

"We know these cancellations are disappointing to our patrons and performers," said Jacob's Pillow spokeswoman Marieclare Hulbert. "(But) we remain dedicated to the safety of our patrons, artists and staff."

Barrington Stage canceled today's final performance of "The Game" at its main stage theater on Union Street, and "My Name is Asher Lev" at Stage 2 on Linden Street. "My Name" will resume on Tuesday.

However, this morning's performance at the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Guilded Age Museum in Lenox was still scheduled to take place with half-price tickets offered to patrons. Depending on the weather, the mansion will remain open until 3 p.m. for guided tours.

The storm is expected to arrive when Sunday morning church services are at their peak. As of Saturday, the pastors of Pittsfield's four Roman Catholic parishes, St. Charles, St. Joseph, St. Mark, and Sacred Heart, said Sunday services would still take place, although they urged their parishioners to be careful.

"If it's bad stay home," said St. Joseph's pastor, the Rev. Michael Shershanovich.

As of Saturday, services throughout the Diocese of Springfield were also scheduled to take place.

"We have not issued an across-the-board suspension of services," Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont said. "We've told parishioners to use their best judgment and follow the advice of local officials."

In Alford, Egremont and Sheffield, elderly residents and those with medical conditions are being asked to notify local authorities of their locations.

"If there's an emergency we'll send people out to check on them," said Ed McCormick, the emergency management coordinator for all three towns. "We need to know who they are and what their conditions are."

Sheffield residents are asked to call (413) 229-7000 ext. 152; while Alford and Egremont residents can call (413) 528-0182 ext. 10. Callers are asked to leave their name, address and telephone number.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com
(413) 496-6224

Cancellations ...

Here's a list of Sunday's cancellations as of late Saturday afternoon. Cancellations continue to roll in, so it is advisable to call ahead to a particular venue to see if it will be open.

Cultural, historic venues

Ashley Falls: Ashley House, Bartholomew's Cobble.

Becket: All activities at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Lenox: Berkshire Scenic Railway; Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio; all activities at Tanglewood; Capital Steps at Cranwell.

North Adams: Mass MoCA.

Pittsfield: Hancock Shaker Village; Barrington Stage Co.'s Main Stage & Stage 2 performances; Berkshire Museum.

Stockbridge: Chesterwood; Mission House Gardens & Indian Musuem; Naumkeag Museum & Gardens; Norman Rockwell Museum.

Businesses

Pittsfield: Bisque, Beads & Beyond

Events

Cummington: The Cummington Fair.

Great Barrington: Kennel Club Dog Show at the Big E in West Springfield; Johnny Irion at Castle Street Cafe (rescheduled for Sept. 5).

Lenox: Lenox Library Book Fair.

North Adams: Everything Under the Sun Music and Arts Festival (rescheduled for Sept. 9-10); Motorama Music Festival (rescheduled for Sept. 25).

Pittsfield: Temple Anshe Amunim Tag Sale (rescheduled for Sept. 4).

Religious services

Pittsfield: 9 a.m. services, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

Evacuation shelters

The following Berkshire County municipalities have established or will establish shelters, if needed, at the following locations on Sunday.

Adams: Adams Memorial Middle School, open at 6 a.m. today.

Dalton: Craneville Elementary School, if necessary. Decision to open will be made at 9 a.m. today. Information: 684-0020.

Great Barrington: Monument Mountain Regional High School, Bard College at Simon's Rock, if necessary. Simon's Rock will be used a regional shelter in South County if all the other facilities are filled. Information: Great Barrington Police, 528-3060.

North Adams: Drury High School, open at 11 a.m. today.

Pittsfield: Reid Middle School, 950 North St. opened 5 p.m. Saturday. The Disaster Animal Response Team has set up a shelter for household pets at Springside Park.

Sheffield: Mount Everett Regional School, if necessary. Information: Sheffield Police, 229-8522.

South Egremont: Congregational Church, open at 9 a.m. today.

Stockbridge: Town offices and Stockbridge Plain School, if necessary. Information: Stockbridge Police, 298-4179

West Stockbridge: Village School, Route 202, if necessary. Information: West Stockbridge Police, 232-8500.

Williamstown: Williamstown Elementary School, open at 7 a.m. today.