The Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts is being buffeted by powerful winds from Hurricane Sandy. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has the latest on the storm’s impact.
Weather forecasts say this area can expect sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, with gusts to 60 miles per hour. The winds began to intensify in Springfield shortly after noon. Bob Hassett, the Director of Emergency Preparedness for the city of Springfield warned this would not be a quick moving storm.
Authorities expect the winds to howl for the next 12 to 24 hours causing damage to trees, bringing down power lines and turning loose objects into dangerous projectiles.
Mayor Domenic Sarno and public safety officials , during a late morning briefing on the storm, urged people to avoid travel.
Sarno announced the closing of City Hall at noon, along with public libraries and parks. Schools had already cancelled day time classes and evening activities. Municipal offices were also closing this afternoon in Northampton and Greenfield.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority suspended all service at 1PM
Sarno said the city was prepared to deal with any emergency with five additional fire crews on duty ,additional police officers on standby, and the city’s fleet of emergency response vehicles checked and ready to go.
There are no plans to open an emergency shelter in Springfield, but the city’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Helen Caulton-Harris said one could quickly open it officials later determine it is needed.
The Red Cross opened a shelter Sunday night at the Smith Vocational High School in Northampton. A spokesperson said no one spent the night there.
Edgar Alejandro, community relations representative for Western Massachusetts Electric Company said it is not possible to predict how many power outages could result from the storm. He said the utility has been preparing since early last week.
The utility has nearly quadrupled the number of line and tree crews it has available. Workers
arrived from as far away as Oklahoma and Canada over the weekend and are now staged for deployment, according to a spokesperson.
Authorities urged people to take precautions if the power in their home goes out, such as turning off main breakers to protect appliances from electric surges and to avoid downed wires. Public safety officials warned about the dangers of using propane grills to cook indoors and using gasoline powered generators that are not at least 25 feet away from the house.