NEWBURYPORT — The holiday break will come to an end with a dose of winter weather, as town officials are busy preparing for a storm that could drop 6 inches of snow or more on the area from tomorrow into Friday.
“People should be planning for possibilities, but it’s not time to freak out just yet and go through preparing for the end of the world,” said Matthew Belk, senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton. “It’s definitely something that should have your attention. We’re trying to watch for it right now.”
While it is still too early for the weather service to predict snow amount totals, Belk said locals should be prepared for some snow tomorrow night into Friday.
“The best example I can give is, we’re making chocolate chip cookies, all of the ingredients are on the table, you know what those ingredients are and what it’s eventually supposed to wind up as, but you haven’t actually made the cookie yet,” said Belk. “It’s too early to say with certainty, but there is a good probability for 6-plus inches of snow in the Newburyport area. There’s potential for more, there is potential for less.”
Belk also said there is a slight possibility of some snow falling tonight into tomorrow morning, but the brunt of the storm is looking to hit tomorrow night.
“You are talking about a storm that is 600 to 700 miles wide and if it moves 25 miles, it makes a difference,” Belk said. “That’s why we are not talking about snow probabilities just yet. You could throw numbers out there, but they would be likely to change.”
Salisbury Department of Public Works director Don Levesque said he has been through the drill plenty of times in the past and is ready for whatever hits his coastal town.
“We’ve dealt with just about everything that can be thrown at us in this town as far as coastal issues and snow removal,” Levesque said. “So, we’re as ready as ready can be and if there are any issues, we will definitely deal with them.”
One concern for this area, and Plum Island in particular: flooding and erosion.
“We expect some flooding during this storm because the high tides are astronomically high,” Levesque said. “There will be some issues I’m sure at the beach and at other places that normally flood. So we check all the catch basins to make sure they are clear and if something happens, we are ready to address it the best we can.”
“The timing is going to be critical,” Belk said. “We do expect some beach erosion and some splash-over into some minor coastal flooding right now. We just don’t know where yet, because the timing is so critical.”
Levesque said that once the snow begins to fall, his crews begin treating the roads. When the snow level reaches 3 inches, the supporting staff and contractors begin to plow and that is pretty much the same all throughout the state.
“It really doesn’t change much,” Levesque said. “We’ve notified all our equipment and those that service it to be ready to go. All our contractors have been notified, they are ready to go. All our utilities, water, sewer and highway department are on call. We’re ready to go.”
Lisa Exum, dispatcher at the Newburyport Department of Public Services, echoed Levesque’s outlook.
“We have plenty of salt, plenty of resources,” Exum said. “We’re ready for it.”
Amesbury DPW administrative assistant Laurie Pierce said unless the storm hits tonight, holiday pay for workers should not be a factor and her biggest concern right now is trash pickup.
“Because it’s a holiday week, that means everybody is delayed a day already,” Pierce said. “So, Wednesday there is no trash, people will be putting their trash out on Thursday. The Thursday route will be Friday morning and that is where there could be an issue.
“We ask that people use common sense and if they can put it out, not in the street or a sidewalk or a public way, to put it out and as soon as it is picked up, to take their containers in,” she added. “If it is not picked up, the contractor knows where he couldn’t go and will be back on Saturday to pick up Friday’s route.”
Levesque said that, once the snow begins to fly, people should just find shelter and stay warm.
“People should hunker down and enjoy the snow,” Levesque said. “They should try to stay in so we can go and do our job.”