As brutal cold takes toll on vehicles, AAA garages seeing 'double to triple the number of calls'

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Jenn Smith — The Berkshire Eagle
Hundreds of Berkshirites with dead or dying car batteries have kept area auto repair shops busy to start 2018, a motor vehicle malaise likely to last through the most frigid weekend of the young winter.

With temperatures and wind chills below zero overnight Sunday through the predawn hours of Tuesday, motorists countywide often waited several hours before a wrecker arrived to tow their disabled car, truck or SUV to the nearest service garage, according to shop owners and AAA Northeast.

"We're straight out," said Hank Sayers of Sayers Auto Wrecking in Lanesborough. "We've been doing double to triple the number of calls, getting to people within 60 to 90 minutes."

"On Monday alone we took 115 calls," added Scott Carlotto, service manager for R.W.'s Inc. in Lee. "I can't remember it being this cold since I was a kid in the '70s."

Sayers and R.W.'s among the local agents for AAA Northeast, which fielded 62,000 call throughout southern New England from Saturday through New Year's Day, said Mary Maguire, the auto club's spokeswoman for Massachusetts.

"When you have temperatures below zero, it could drain almost all the battery power," she said. "A three- to four-year-old battery in New England is on the edge."

While temperatures moderated from Monday's daytime highs in the single digits to the teens on Tuesday, the cumulative effect of the icy weather since last Wednesday is taking its toll automobiles, said Glen Maloney, general manager for T & M Auto in North Adams.

He urged vehicle owners to heed the warning signs of a battery losing its juice.

"We had one customer in for an oil change and happened to mention he had a weak battery," he said, "So we replaced it."

The Berkshires she see a brief respite from the bitter cold Wednesday, when meteorologists expect to see temperatures break the 20-degree mark for the first time since Dec. 26, and overnight lows in the teens, according to the National Weather Service office in Albany, N.Y.

A coastal storm is expected to drops some light snow on the Berkshires on Thursday, after which subzero temperatures will return, lasting until Sunday.

Temperatures aren't expected to approach the freezing mark until early next week.

As Berkshire residents struggle to keep their vehicles running, they appear to be taking better care of themselves. Berkshire Health Systems spokesman Michael Leary reported Tuesday that the emergency department at Berkshire Medical Center has treated a few cases of injuries due to falling on snow and ice, but no cold weather-related injuries.

"It appears people are heeding advice and staying indoors as much as possible and dressing in layers when outside," Leary said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at and (413) 496-6233.


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