Governor Orders State Offices Closed Ahead of Storm

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BOSTON — State offices will be closed Thursday ahead of a major snow "hurricane" headed for the coast.
Gov. Charlie Baker made the announcement that non-emergency, executive branch state employees should not report to work shortly after a briefing on the storm and is urging everyone to stay off roadways if possible, allowing crews to clear snow that will accumulate across the state throughout the day.
"Tomorrow's weather will create hazardous driving conditions across much of the commonwealth. To prioritize public safety, we are asking everyone to stay off the roads and to use public transportation if necessary so road crews can safely clear snow," he said. "Due to the risk of power outages and coastal flooding in many parts of the state, we urge residents to be prepared, help neighbors and be mindful of local notices throughout the storm."
Up to a foot or more of snow and blizzard conditions are being forecast for the eastern end of the state as a major storm works its way north over the next couple days. 
The Berkshires are predicted to get less, although 6 inches or more in some areas is possible depending on how the storm tracks. Storm conditions will worsened, however, with a blast of Arctic air that will plunge the region back below zero. 
The Baker-Polito administration says it remains in close contact with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, Department of Transportation and state police to monitor the forecast and will work to alert the public with important updates or notifications. The MBTA Storm Desk will continue to monitor rail service throughout the storm and provide updates to commuters at and @MBTA. The state Emergency Management Agency can be followed at @MEMA.
State Office Closures: State offices will be closed for all non-emergency, executive branch state employees on Thursday, Jan. 4.
MBTA: The MBTA will run a weekday train schedule, buses will use snow routes and ferry service will be suspended, while the commuter rail will operate on a reduced schedule.
Public Safety: Clear home and auto exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide exposure and avoid downed utility wires. Also, please assist in keeping sidewalks, fire hydrants and storm drains in your neighborhood clear.
Frigid Temperatures: Make sure pets are inside, wrap up warmly when going out, keep water dripping if there is a danger of pipes freezing, use safe and appropriate heaters (no stoves or barbecues), remember the elderly and neighbors and keep your gas tank at least half full. 
The State Emergency Operations Center at MEMA Headquarters in Framingham will be activating Thursday morning to provide situational awareness and coordinate any requested assistance to cities and towns.
Highway Travel: Travel will be significantly impacted with snow-covered roads, low visibility and possible white-out conditions.  Motorists should stay off the roads and use public transit when possible. If you must drive, exercise caution, "don't crowd the plow," and stay behind snow removal equipment on the roadways.
In the worst storms this season, MassDOT's Highway Division will be able to utilize up to 700 staff members to perform snow and ice removal operations on more than 15,000 lanes miles of roadway throughout the Commonwealth. This snow and ice season, MassDOT will have approximately 4,200 pieces of state and vendor equipment available using over 150 depots and storage locations. This includes over 1,300 plow and spreader combos, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders.

For updates on road and traffic conditions in Massachusetts, drivers can dial 511 before heading out onto the roadways and select a route to hear real-time conditions; go to for real-time traffic and incident advisory information; follow @MassDOT to receive regular updates and download MassDOT's GoTime mobile app and view real-time traffic conditions before setting out on the road.

Other important winter driving tips include:

  • Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights, even the hood and roof, before driving, (start with the tailpipe).
  • Leave plenty of room for stopping.
  • Remember that the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
  • Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Pump brakes as you prepare to come to a full stop.  It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.
  • Bridge decks freeze before roadway surfaces leading up to them due to the difference in the exposure to air.
  • Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.
  • Seat belts should be worn at all times – it's the law.
  • Most importantly, please travel at slow speeds.

More information on road and weather conditions can also be found by following @MassStatePolice and Trooper Dustin Fitch@DustinGFitch

Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski issued the following tips to protect homes from fire.

If you are using a portable heater:

•                     Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off so if it tips over, it shuts off.

•                     Keep anything that can burn such bedding, clothing and curtains at least 3 feet from the heater.

•                     Plug portable heaters directly into wall outlets. Never use an extension cord or power strip.

•                     Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.


If you are using a fireplace:

•                     Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out and starting a fire.

•                     Do not burn paper in your fireplace.

•                     Before you go to sleep or leave your home put the fire out completely.

•                     Put ashes in a metal container with a lid. Store the container outside at least 3 feet from your home.

If you are using a wood stove:

•                     Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.

•                     Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from the stove.

•                     Do not burn paper in your wood stove.

•                     Before you go to sleep or leave your home, put the fire out completely.

Do not use candles, sterno cans or any other open flames to heat your home.  

When heating your home, you need to be aware of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “invisible killer” because it’s a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas. More than 150 people in the U.S. die every year from accidental CO poisoning from generators or fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces. Breathing carbon monoxide at high levels can kill you.

Put CO alarms inside your home to provide an early warning of increasing CO levels. These alarms should be placed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home.

As always, make sure you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test your alarms every month. Have a home fire escape plan and practice your plan at least twice a year. Make sure everyone knows how to escape your home if there is a fire.

With the approaching snowstorm and all through the winter months, it is also important to remember to clean out around your neighborhood fire hydrants.  Precious time that can be used to mount a fire attack is often lost due to our inability to find fire hydrant that buried under snow.  Fire Chief Czerwinski recommends cleaning out a three (3) foot radius around all fire hydrants.  This will provide ample access for a firefighter to attach hoses to the hydrant and allow space to walk and work around.

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Veteran Spotlight: Seaman Nichols Witness to History

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires

Seaman Bob Nichols was about 100 feet away from the ceremony for the formal surrender of Japan in 1945.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Simply put, Bob Nichols represents The Greatest Generation in admirable fashion. At 93 years of age, he is extremely kind, gracious, tremendously fit and carries himself with immense humility. 
The World War II veteran served his country from 1944-1946 in the Navy aboard the USS Missouri in the South Pacific Theater. 
Sent to basic training at Fort Sampson in New York, Seaman Nichols was sent to Newport, R.I., for further training and a "shakedown" cruise to Norfolk, Va., and then on to Trinidad. His brand-new ship was the BB-63 USS Missouri, which would go on to earn three battle stars for bombardments during the war. The "Might Mo" is now a museum near the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. 
"We were Task Force 38 and 58 and provided cover for the carriers, 2,700 men on board. I was a gunner on the starboard side of the ship. That's where all the action was," he remembered.
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