By Doug Ireland
The first major snowstorm of the season won't hit until later today, but yesterday public works crews throughout the region were busy preparing for up to a foot of snow.
They were checking their plows and sanders, and making sure their drivers were set to hit the streets once the flakes began to fly.
"We're all ready to go," said Rick Russell, director of the Salem, N.H., Public Works Department. "We've got all the bugs out of the equipment."
They weren't the only ones getting ready.
Police departments issued reminders about winter parking bans, shoppers rushed to stock up before the storm, and organizations began canceling holiday events scheduled for this weekend.
Officials at The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem closely monitored the forecast as the mall prepared for what's typically one of the busiest shopping weekends of the holiday season. No changes in hours were expected as of yesterday afternoon, according to general manager Cindy Hall.
At National Weather Service offices in Taunton and Gray, Maine, meteorologists were busy tracking weather patterns.
A storm that was once expected to drop 3 to 6 inches of snow is now predicted to be bring at least 10 to 14 inches to the area as of last night.
"That's where it's going to dump pretty hard," said meteorologist Michael Kistner, who is stationed in Gray.
Up to 14 inches could fall near the coast and about 8 to 12 inches further inland, he said.
The snow is expected to begin by early afternoon and continue through noon tomorrow, with the heaviest amounts falling between midnight and early morning, he said.
But there's more than just a foot of snow that will make traveling difficult this weekend.
Temperatures in the mid-teens and strong winds blowing snow across roadways will add to the misery, Kistner said.
"It's going to be a pretty bitter cold event," he said.
That means the snow should be light and fluffy throughout most of the area. Wind chills are expected to drop below zero later today in Southern New Hampshire.
There could be some sleet and mixed precipitation along the Massachusetts coast, according to meteorologist Charles Foley in Taunton.
Public works officials in both states said they are ready for whatever Mother Nature brings their way.
"We'll do whatever we can to maintain a safe roadway for the motoring public," Russell said.
In Lawrence, acting Public Works Director John Isensee said his staff got an early start.
"We've had pre-storm meetings all morning and made calls to all of our contractors," he said yesterday. "Our city pieces (of equipment) are all ready."
He said snowfall will be closely monitored throughout the storm, and up to 85 plows and sanders are ready to roll if needed.
In Haverhill, Mayor James Fiorentini issued a winter storm advisory, asking residents to avoid parking on streets. If that's not possible, they should park on streets with even-number addresses or their vehicles could be towed so plows can pass.
Andover police also announced that drivers could have their vehicles towed if they park on the street.
Monday will be cold with temperatures in the 20s and with a chance of snow showers at night. Snow showers are also expected Tuesday with temperatures near 30, according to the National Weather Service.