Snow storm swoops over Berkshires

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For retail and grocery store employees, there has been little rest for the weary.

With the pre-Thanksgiving rush having come and gone, shoppers are back — but now, they are stocking up on bread, beer and emergency supplies ahead of the season’s first snowstorm, which is expected to land Sunday.

“It’s been steady since we opened the doors this morning. Some people are stocking up for two or three days,” said Ashlee Goodrich, front-end supervisor at Adams Hometown Market in Adams. “Normally, we can take our time, but we’re pushing people out pretty quickly.”

The storm, which is expected to span from Sunday morning through Monday night, could bring wind gusts up to 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., which on Saturday issued a winter storm warning from 11 a.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Tuesday. By storm's end, up to 2 feet of snow could blanket the Berkshires.

With many Berkshire residents expected to return Sunday from out-of-town holiday trips, travel is expected to be especially troublesome.

By noon Saturday, checkout lines at Adams Hometown Market were five or six customers deep, Goodrich said. It was significantly busier than an average Saturday.

WATCH THE RADAR: National Weather Service loop

In Pittsfield, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace also was preparing for an influx of afternoon shoppers.

Saturday morning was steady, but not overwhelming, according to front-end supervisor Kate Winslow.

Some customers were buying food for their “second Thanksgivings,” but many were picking up staples to keep them stocked in case of having to spend a few days stuck indoors, she said.

“It will definitely hit later this afternoon and tomorrow,” Winslow said of foot traffic. “They’re stacking up. They’re getting ready.”

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Snow likely will begin to fall late Sunday morning and continue at a steady pace throughout the afternoon, according to Brian Frugis, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Albany.

Snow likely will be lighter in the evening and mix intermittently with sleet overnight, he said.

Snowfall is expected to intensify Monday morning and remain heavy throughout the day, according to Frugis.

By the time the system starts to wind down Monday night, the Berkshires will have seen, on average, about a foot of snow, he said. Because temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for the next few days, what does accumulate isn’t expected to melt right away.

“It’s not that too rare of a thing,” Frugis said of the weather. “Now that we’re past Thanksgiving, we’re not as early season as it would have been a few weeks ago.”

Still, being a holiday weekend, the timing of the snowfall is not ideal, he said.

“It’s definitely going to be a difficult travel day Sunday, and Monday as well,” he said

While severe winter weather is old hat for many New Englanders, Bart Raser, whose family has owned Carr Hardware since 1962, still gets excited by the rush that comes before a big storm.

By early Saturday afternoon, customers in Pittsfield had purchased 10 snowblowers — they range in price from $400 to $1,500 — at Carr, Raser said.

Ice melt, windshield wipers and generators also were piling up at cash registers, he said.

Even without the storm, Raser had expected a rush for Small Business Saturday. Every customer who brought a nonperishable food item to be donated to local food pantries received a coupon toward their purchase.

“That’s added a lot of traffic, too,” he said.

The company quietly opened its new store in Lenox on Friday.

“Just in time,” Raser said about the opening. “It was surprisingly busy.”

While Carr customers were preparing to keep their driveways clear, highway departments were hustling Saturday morning to solidify their plans of attack for the county's public roads.

Vinny Barbarotta, Pittsfield's Highway Division superintendent, expects that clearing and maintaining the roads will be an all-hands-on-deck effort for 48 hours after the storm moves into the area.

Two six-men teams of town employees will work 12-hour shifts to ensure that the city’s 56 “main roads” are manned all day and night, Barbarotta said.

The city has put together a list of contractors who will be called in to assist. That list is long enough to serve the city twice, and not everyone will be needed, he said.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Lanesborough declared a snow emergency from 7 a.m. Sunday to Tuesday, ordering that nobody park their cars on town roads.

On Saturday afternoon, the city of Pittsfield declared a snow emergency from 11 a.m. Sunday through 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Cars parked on city roads, such as North Street, during storms can hinder efforts to clear the streets and prolong work for public works employees, Barbarotta said.

“In a storm like this, I worry about keeping them safe more than anything,” he said of the crews. “We try to get them off the road after 12 hours, maybe 16.”

Barbarotta said that some travelers might try to get home before the snow begins Sunday, or stay put until it’s over.

“That’s our hope,” he said. “Let’s see how that goes.”

STAYING SAFE:  The American Red Cross offers these tips for staying safe in wintry weather:

Heating

  • Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets and rugs) at least 3 feet from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets, never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

Take care outside

  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy-feeling skin.

Road safety

  • Tell someone about your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Before leaving, listen to weather reports for your area and the areas that you will be passing through.
  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and that the driver is giving their full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snowplows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6966.


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