Northern Berkshire local governments entered this weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy amid forecasts of three to five inches of rain starting Tuesday, according to New England Weather Associates (NEWA).
Late Friday afternoon, NEWA's John Hockridge forecasted a Berkshire County storm of "strong tropical" strength that could possibly "maintain Category 1 [hurricane]" strength of sustained winds at or above 74 mph.
"The greatest impact is expected to be on Tuesday and into Tuesday night with heavy rains and high winds," Hockridge said. "Any more than three to five inches [of rain] is of great concern ... and it may turn out worse than it's looking."
The upshot of meetings held by local officials in North Adams, Williamstown and Adams on Friday was that the machinery is in place. Department heads of each community are in collaboration, and better communication systems are in place since last year's Tropical Storm Irene.
Though officials hope Sandy won't put experience gained last year to the test, all acknowledged preparation for the worst.
"There will not be a surprise," Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin told 60 residents who'd gathered for a meeting at The Spruces Mobile Home Park library and recreation center Friday. Fohlin echoed the feelings of many local officials.
Said North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, "The message now is, the storm's coming; we don't know what the impact of that storm is going to
Measures put in place over the past year account for much of this preparation.
Local officials are now aware of flood zones that, in some cases, caught them off-guard 14 months ago. Waterways have been cleared of debris, roadways improved and culverts reconstructed. North Adams and Adams adopted CodeRED, a phone emergency notification system for residents, and emergency protocols in other towns underwent changes.
Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said the town's biggest improvement from last year is in "technical intercommunications."
"Having gone through it [last year], there's a confidence in town government -- we have the same people in the same positions that have experienced these things and worked together [in a prior storm situation]," Butler said.
North Adams Commissioner of Public Services Timothy Lescarbeau said city crews began draining Windsor Lake and cleaning catch basins Friday, and will continue throughout the weekend.
"We're about as prepared as we can be at this point," Lescarbeau said.
Local reservoirs are at lower levels than before Irene, Lescarbeau said, and Butler noted less ground saturation due to a dry summer. Fohlin classified the threat to the Hoosic River as "very low" at the present time.
In Cheshire, Savoy and Clarksburg highway departments tended to catch basins, culverts and river blockages Friday.
"We'll do the best we can," Cheshire Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.
Savoy Selectmen's Chair John Tynan said he expects the town's highway department to be joined by residents in the case of bad damage.
"Savoy is very much like that; everyone seems to come out and help," Tynan said. " ... A lot of people have their own equipment up here."
Storm updates will be provided to North Adams and Adams through CodeRED, and those and other communities can also rely on social media, television and radio.
"Either leave WNAW [AM 1230] on your radio or leave Channel 22 on your television ... every thirty minutes or so you will hear an update that will be consistent with [the current knowledge]," Alcombright said.
Residents are advised to refrain from raking fallen leaves into streets.
Sunday meetings have been scheduled in North Adams and Williamstown to address current weather forecasts.
Hockridge added that the storm "doesn't seem to be locked into any set track yet."
"The expectation is not a repeat of [Tropical Storm] Irene, but [Sandy] certainly has a strong potential for localized flooding and flooding in flood-prone areas," Hockridge said Friday.
Transcript photographer Gillian Jones contributed to this report.
To reach Phil Demers, email