North Adams officials meet at the North Adams Ambulance Service on Sunday afternoon. The city has closed schools and will declare a state of emergency at noon on Monday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A storm of epic proportions is prompting evacuations along the mid-Atlantic coast, canceling schools and forcing a lull in the presidential campaign.
In the Berkshires, North Adams, Clarksburg and Adams-Cheshire public schools have already canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and Pittsfield schools will be closed Monday.
More cancellations are expected as emergency management teams meet late this afternoon.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has also canceled classed for Monday and Tuesday, including all adult education classes.
North Adams City Hall will be open on Monday but Adams Town Hall, Council on Aging and Free Library will be closed.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon and ordered state offices closed Monday and all nonessential state workers in the Executive branch to stay home.
"We are encouraging private employers to follow our lead and have their workers stay home as well," said the governor at a press conference late Sunday afternoon. He also requested public and private schools at all levels cancel classes for safety and for drivers to stay off the roads.
There is concern over high tide surges along the state's coast but much of the worry is over wind damage and loss of power, said Patrick, because Sandy "may have an even larger impact on service than during Hurricane Irene."
"Hurricane Sandy is now forecast to hit Massachusetts around 2 in the morning, Monday morning, first on Martha's Vineyard and then reaching the south coast and east coast before noon tomorrow. By the tomorrow afternoon the entire commonwealth will feel the effects of the hurricane," said the governor. "At this point, those effects mainly appear to be mainly wind related. The National Weather Service expects very strong and damaging winds, major coastal flooding and significant beach erosion."
Amtrak service will suspended in the Northeast at 7 p.m. on Sunday; state ferry service is suspended by tomorrow and the MBTA will operate as long as possible.
Both North Adams and Adams will declare emergencies at noon on Monday and open shelters at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center (St. Anthony's) and the Adams Visitors Center, respectively. Williamstown will determine Monday afternoon whether an emergency shelter is necessary.
The National Weather Service has issued high wind warning and flood watch for the region. Officials are most concerned of downed lines and trees, particularly because many still have foliage on them. Residents are urged to "shelter in place."
"If you don't have to be somewhere, stay home," advised North Adams Health Inspector Manuel Serrano at a meeting of the North Adams emergency management team on Sunday afternoon.
Significant and possibly lengthy power outages are expected and residents are cautioned not to go near any downed power lines. Utility customers should be aware that power will NOT be restored before the storm has concluded.
In Williamstown, local officials met with residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park, which was devastated by Hurricane Irene last year.
Town Manager Peter Fohlin said the flooding from last year's storm is not expected to be repeated.
"This is not Irene. Irene was 10 inches of rain, this is more like 3 inches of rain," he told worried residents of the park who will be updated again at noon tomorrow. Fohlin advised them they were probably safer in the park this time around.
In fact, Sandy is shaping up to be the opposite of Irene, with more concerns over wind damage than water.
Hurricane Sandy is expected to land somewhere on the Jersey Shore late Monday and merge with two weather systems to the west and north to create a "superstorm" of rain, wind and snow. New Jersey, northern Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, western New York and Ohio are expected to get the brunt of the storm, but it will cover a large swath of the Northeast beginning early Sunday morning.
"As conditions worsen along the Mid-Atlantic and other parts of the East Coast, residents need to listen to the direction of local officials," urged Carl Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney have canceled campaign event over the next few days. The president met with Fugate and his team, and spoke via teleconference with governors and mayors of the states being most affected earlier Sunday.
"My message to the governors, as well as to the mayors, is anything they need, we will be there. And we're going to cut through red tape," he said, urging residents in the path of the storm to take it serioulsly. "We're not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules."
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