As winds began to drop trees in Northern Berkshire, Williamstown officials announced Monday at a noon gathering of The Spruces Mobile Home Park residents that they would prepare a town shelter from Hurricane Sandy's potential impact.
However, Williamstown Police reported no residents at the shelter as of 7 p.m. on Monday, and conditions in the town were "relatively quiet," with some felled trees having been cleared from roadways.
Located at the elementary school on Church Street, the shelter is stocked with food, water, an emergency generator, 25 cots, blankets, pillows and staffing, Town Manager Peter Fohlin said at the meeting. Residents were instructed to contact the police if they felt in need of shelter, and to "not hesitate" to move there.
"I guess the way I would describe it is you all have a key," Fohlin said.
Accommodations will be made for pets, Fohlin said in response to a question from one Spruces resident, and all town residents are welcome to the shelter.
Two other shelter options, Town Hall and a local motel, would be made available depending on need, Fohlin said in an email later Monday afternoon.
Officials hoped to mitigate any effects Sandy could bring as she descended locally Monday.
Three inches of rain by Tuesday night coupled with wind gusts peaking at 75 mph could cause widespread damage and power outages, New England Weather Associates (NEWA) forecasted Monday afternoon. By 7 p.m. on Monday, NEWA reported, more than 300,000 were without power in the commonwealth, 865 of these in the county.
Fohlin and Town Public Department of Works Director Timothy Kaiser sought to reassure Spruces residents at the meeting, who feared a rehash of last year's disastrous damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene. Fohlin said, "It's all about preparedness."
"We made it work last time [during Irene] and I expect this time will be a whole lot easier. We have experience. We're getting good at this," he joked. Spruces Property Manager Marilynn Kirby, also at the meeting, was grateful for the attention the park received.
"Irene took away homes and changed lives, and [Spruces residents] have spent the last 14 months rebuilding their homes and lives," Kirby said. "Now here comes another storm. It caused mass panic. Without [town government's] proactive measures, this could be a mess.
We've had meetings three out of the last four days, and it's meant everything to these residents because they know there's someone who cares."
Officials followed up Monday's Spruces gathering with a National Grid conference call while public works tended to drain clearings and other preparatory measures.
Similar preparations were made in neighboring New Ashford and Hancock. Each town's highway department was ready for action Monday afternoon, officials reported.
Hancock Selectmen's Chair Sherman Derby said Hancock Shaker Village on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield and Hancock School on Hancock Road would be equipped to serve as shelters, if need be. Hancock Fire Department and town paramedics were on call with extra vehicles, Derby said.
"At the present time, we don't have a problem," Derby said Monday afternoon. "The fire department is on ready and we're all on ready, so all you can do is wait to see what happens."
New Ashford has no plans of preparing a shelter, but Carlene Rancourt of the town's Fire Department said town "equipment is fueled and ready to go - when we get a call, we'll go and see what we can do."
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