Snow, wind make for hazardous traveling in Berkshires as blizzard rolls in

Saturday February 9, 2013

Heavy snowfall and wind gusts slowly moved into the Berkshires on Friday at the beginning of a problematic, and potentially historic, winter storm system that eventually would engulf the Northeast.

A steady trickle of snow in the county persisted throughout Friday before picking up, giving residents enough time to clog local businesses to stock up on supplies.

At least 4 inches of snow had accumulated in Pittsfield by 9 p.m., according to Joe Villani, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Albany. Another 5 to 8 inches were expected through 3 a.m., according to the Weather Channel.

Snowfall totals were reported at 5 inches in North Otis just after 7 p.m., and at 6 inches in North Adams and 9 inches in Peru by 9:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The brunt of the storm had been expected Friday from 6 p.m. until midnight, possibly generating 30-mph winds and creating snow drifts, according to Ian Lee, a meteorologist at the NWS in Albany.

He said snow showers could linger into the afternoon today, with 14 to 24 inches of accumulation possible in the higher terrain of the Berkshires.

"But generally, people will wake up to a good foot of snow," he said.

Gov. Deval Patrick issued a statewide driving ban beginning at 4 p.m., which stated that all motorists had to be off the roads, with the exception of public safety and public works workers, government officials conducting official business, utility workers, health-care workers who needed to travel, and news media, according to a statement on the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's website. Other specific maintenance and delivery services were permitted.

By 6 p.m., the streets in downtown Pittsfield were almost deserted of vehicles, except for snow plows clearing roads amid the falling snow. With the exception of a minor fender bender in Lee, county dispatchers reported no weather-related problems.

Before the 4 p.m. driving ban was issued, Berkshires residents rushed to local stores to pick up supplies to prepare for the possibility that they could be snowed in for the weekend.

The Big Y on West Street in Pittsfield bustled with people maneuvering shopping carts -- some overflowing and others containing just the basic necessities, such as bread, water, milk and cereal.

"We did two days' worth of work [Thursday]," said Rocky Greco, the Big Y's assistant store director. "We thought it would be quiet [Friday], but it's been very busy."

Greco said he was unfamiliar with the 4 p.m. driving ban. All Big Ys closed at 5 p.m. Friday and are scheduled to open at 11 a.m. today, weather permitting.

A driving ban and the likelihood of getting snowed in also led to a spike in business at Kelly's Package Store in Dalton on Friday afternoon, according to store owner John Kelly.

"But it comes with a trade-off," he said. "Since Friday, we've doubled the business done normally. That means we'll be awfully lonely [today]."

Caligari's Hardware Manager Rudy Mantegari said he hoped his store on Housatonic Street in Lenox would stay open as long as it was safe because of the business being generated. By 3 p.m., the store had sold most of its supplies of shovels, batteries, flashlights, lanterns and even sleds, Mantegari said.

"It's typical winter storm stuff," Mantegari said. "We even sold one generator, and we're not a place known for generators."

The snowfall is expected be a boon for local ski resorts this weekend. The numbers won't be "too big," Bousquet Business Manager Sherry Roberts said, but the snow will bring out the hard-core skiers.

"We are very excited, and all the skiers are excited for some fresh-powdered skiing," she said.

The lodging is booked for the weekend at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, which will equal about 200 people this weekend, spokeswoman Betsy Strickler said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is urging all Catholics to heed travel advisories and restrictions, and to use good judgment when traveling to Mass, according to a news release.

To reach Adam Poulisse:,
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