Red Cross, Pittsfield officials gear up for 'super storm'
The magnitude and path of Hurricane Sandy remain uncertain, according to weather officials, but Berkshire County will certainly see its effects and officials are planning accordingly.
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, Sheriff Thomas N. Bowler, Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, Police Chief Michael Wynn. and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier were among some of the city officials who met Friday morning to review storm preparations to ensure Pittsfield was ready to face any inclement weather brought in by the hurricane that has already killed about 40 people in the Caribbean.
On Friday, the National Hurricane Center projected the storm to possibly hit the southern coast of New England anywhere between Monday night and Tuesday morning. It was about 430 miles south of Charleston and heading north at 7 mph on Friday.
"We're going to carefully monitor the weather, stay vigilant and be prepared," Bianchi said.
City officials will hold an other meeting Monday morning, when meteorologists can provide more concrete forecasts.
For now, there's no "streamlined answer for when and where, or how severely, Hurricane Sandy will affect New England," National Weather Service in Albany Meteorologist Luigi Meccariello said.
"The weather models are having a tough time pinpointing the storm," he said. "We will feel the effects, but the magnitude is still to be determined."
The Berkshire County American Red Cross, based at 480 West St., started preparing for a potential disaster on Thursday, calling their partners at United Way and Salvation Army, organizing their volunteers, and making sure they are adequately stocked with the proper rations.
"We're now in prepared mode," local Red Cross director Kate Leene said. "Preparation is key."
The American Red Cross will not act as a shelter, Leene said, and any necessary storm shelters are contingent on where the storm hits the hardest.
She showed off what should be in a usual emergency kit -- three days worth of food and water per family member, a first aid kit, and plenty of backup batteries for the necessary radio and flashlight.
There is also a smartphone app from the Red Cross that allows you to track a hurricane, and the national website has a link to register yourself as "safe and well," and family members can monitor you from there.
"It's important to talk with your family and let them know how you're doing," Leene said.
Pittsfield officials are also urging residents to sign up for CodeRed, the city's new emergency notification system that updates them on any serious issues accompanying the impending weather. Visit www.pittsfield-ma.org to sign up.
Though last year's Tropical Storm Irene produced heavier rain that what's predicted, damage could include significant effects like high winds, downed power lines and falling tree limbs, particularly ones weighted down by the leaves still attached, according to John Hockbridge, the owner and director of the New England Weather Associates based in North Adams.
The storm could hover over the Berkshires for about three days, Hockbridge said, because the storm system might get lodged in a blocking pattern.
"That's an ingredient for the perfect storm," Hockbridge said. "That's high winds and heavy winds in a wide area for a long period of time. The storm looks like it's going to hang around for a few days."
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