Hurricane Irene to Bring Rain, Winds to Region

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Hurricane Irene swirls off the coast of Florida yesterday. Turn to Weather Channel for real-time tracking.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Residents around the area are stocking up for Hurricane Irene with D batteries, bread and generators selling out around the county.

Some 65 million people along the East Coast are in the path of the storm that was battering the Carolinas with 100-mph winds on Friday night. While Irene was downgraded slightly, she's still on track to dump up to a foot of rain over New England on Sunday and could still bring sustained winds of 40 to 70 mph.

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency on Friday and activated 2,500 guardsmen. Describing the storm as dangerous, the governor said, "we have a very good idea of what is coming and we're ready for it."

The governor requested a federal "prelandfall" disaster declaration, which President Obama declared late Friday. The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts and get federal help into the area fast if needed. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

The county is currently under a tropical storm warning; the affects of Irene will start being felt around 2 p.m. Saturday and continue with the heaviest rain during the day Sunday. The main threats to the region are downed trees and wires and flooding in low-lying areas.

National Grid and Western Mass. Electric Co. have been mobilizing forces in expectation of power outages. WMECo has been reportedly robo-dialing customers to advise on preparations and warn them that power could be out in some areas for up to week, not unlike what happened after tornadoes tore through the Springfield area in June.

Cancelations and closures so far include the cancelation of the two-day Everything Under the Sun Musica and Arts Festival at Noel Field and the carnival at Bowe Field in Adams (the carnival packed up its rides and hit the road Friday night), and on Sunday, the North Adams Motorama, closures of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Scenic Railroad Museum in Lenox, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts in North Adams. The Mount in Lenox will be closed Sunday but a morning performance in the stables is still scheduled.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra's season finale on Sunday at Tanglewood has been canceled. We're told its the first time in the symphony's 75 years that it's canceled a performance. Substitute tickets will be offered later this week. All other activities at Tanglewood for Sunday have also been canceled. However, tonight's all-Beethoven performance with conductor Itzhak Perlman will be held.

The Mac-Haydn Theatre has canceled both performances of "Carousel"; ticketholders should contact the box office at 518-392-9292.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will close at noon on Saturday and not reopen for regular business until Tuesday. Several churches have informed us of postponed services and picnics, among other events. If you plan on going out, call first to ensure your destination is open. Check our Facebook page for more cancelations.

State campgrounds will close at noon on Saturday; some state roads and bridges in Massachusetts and New York may be closed depending on conditions.

Officials are urging people to stay off the roads and "shelter in place." A number of communities have or will open shelters on Sunday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been prepositioning disaster supplies, including at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee. The Air Force has also been doing some preparation by moving more than 20 of its big C-5 Galaxy transports based at Westover out of the path of the storm.

FEMA has been prepositioning disaster supplies along the coast, including at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee. The Air Force has also been doing some preparation by moving more than 20 of its big C-5 Galaxy transports based at Westover out of the path of the storm.

The president and his family cut their vacation short and flew back to Washington from Martha's Vineyard on Friday night. The nation's capital is directly in the path of Irene and the dedication of a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. planned Sunday has been postponed.

Patrick will be give another briefing on the storm later Saturday.

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BCAC Taps Community For Needs Assessment

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Christina Maxwell of the Food Bank of Western Mass talks  about food security.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Poverty was the topic of conversation on Friday to help the Berkshire Community Action Council gauge the needs in the community.
Community leaders and experts lead a panel Friday morning at the Berkshire Athenaeum to help spark a conversation among participants focused on poverty and its different catalysts.   
"We are all interested in working on the destabilizing effects poverty is having on our community and so we hope that we will get some good information here," BCAC Executive Director Deborah Leonczyk said. "So please give us your ideas, your suggestions. Give us your experiences we need to hear it all."
She said as the federally designated anti-poverty agency in the county, every three years BCAC must "take the pulse" of the community and find out what the needs are. This will inform the action plan for the next three years.
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