With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, local officials are taking the necessary steps to make sure the residents of North County will weather the storm safely.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency Friday in anticipation of the storm hitting New England by Saturday night. Speaking from Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters, Patrick said he expects to have 2,500 National Guardsmen mobilized by Saturday morning and urged people to stock up on food, water, batteries and flashlights by Saturday night.
Irene is expected to hit Berkshire County by Sunday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, North County has a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon with wind no faster than 6 mph. By Saturday night, the chance of thunderstorms increases to 80 percent with an expected one to two inches of rainfall and winds topping out at 20 mph.
By Sunday, the National Weather Service is calling for winds 40 to 45 mph increasing to 50 to 55 mph and 100 percent chance of rain. By Sunday night, the rain should slow down before 2 a.m., but winds are expected to be blowing at 36 to 39 mph.
In North County, towns are setting up emergency shelters and sending out highway crews to make sure the area is prepared.
In Adams, Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said residents are being asked to treat this as they would a significant winter storm
"That has not happened yet, but it is apt to happen," he said. "It's probably going to happen, it just hasn't yet. We'll probably declare it Sunday into Monday."
Butler encouraged residents to check for updates on the radio, cable access television and local media websites and social networking sites.
"The DPW is going to be checking on a few places long the Hoosac River where we typically have overflow," he said. "Aside from that, we're in pretty sound condition, it was just a matter of assembling a plan."
In Williamstown, town officials have called for a voluntary evacuation of The Spruces Mobile Home Park at 60 Main St. Town Manager Peter L. Fohlin said the town has been in contact with the management of The Spruces, and its residents are being urged to find alternative accommodations with friends and relatives by Sunday morning.
"We have arranged vans and buses if a large-scale evacuation should be necessary," he said.
Fohlin said residents should monitor the town's website and WNAW radio for storm information, and they are urged not to call 911 for ordinary storm damage such as down trees, but rather to call Town Hall at (413) 458-3500 or the police station at (413) 458-5733.
In North Adams, Emergency updates will be posted on the city's website, www.northadams-ma.gov, on Channel 22, the local radio station WNAW AM 1230, and on local media websites and social media sites.
Residents with flooding basements should call the fire department at 413-664-4922. Fire Director Stephen Meranti has encouraged people to call the fire department directly, saving calling 911 for serious emergencies.
Cheshire Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said the town has ensured that emergency generators are in place at the fire station and elementary school, and said the Highway Department inspected the Hoosac River behind Pine Valley Mobile Home Park, which has a history of flooding. She said they will be keeping an eye on that all weekend as the pre-storm waters were already high. Town residents should check for reverse 911 calls for more information in Cheshire about a possible state of emergency.
Hancock Fire Chief David Rash said the town's fire department on Route 43 will be manned during the heaviest part of the hurricane, and residents can call there at (413) 738-5446 if they have problems with flooding and storm damage. In addition, firefighters will go door-to-door to notify residents if they need to evacuate, he said.
Clarksburg Town Administrator Michael Canales said all the towns vehicles have been gassed up, emergency pumps are working, and generators have been tested in preparation for the storm.
Savoy Selectman Scott Koczela said the town sent out the highway department to check all of the culverts and bridges and make sure they are clear of debris and do not cause water to back up.
"I've also reached out to the fire chief for an emergency plan, and we're making sure all of the highway department equipment is fueled up and ready to go," he said.
Information about emergency plans for Florida were unavailable at press time.
North Adams Regional Hospital said in a press release Friday that it's prepared to operate for four days without assistance if needed. The facility is equipped with an emergency generator, extra water and cots in the event employees need to spend the night.
The Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of Northern Berkshire will make scheduled home health care visits Sunday, but patients have been advised to have ample food and water available and to stay in communication with family or a neighbor.
Area state park closures include the access road to the summit of Mount Greylock and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.