By Bill Kirk
---- — City and town halls across the Merrimack Valley were closed today or closing early as Hurricane Sandy and two other storm systems converged on the East Coast.
While rain has been scattered across the region, the wind has been growing in intensity. It is currently blowing about 24 mph with gusts up to 34 mph in North Andover, according weather.com and the National Weather Service.
It is expected to strengthen with gusts in the Merrimack Valley estimated at up to 75 mph from about 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Then wind speeds will start to dwindle but rain is expected to become more intense.
In North Andover, the town manager was sending everyone but essential workers home by 11 a.m.
Other cities and towns have also announced city or town hall closures, including Lawrence, Methuen and Andover. School was canceled in every district in the state. Haverhill City Hall remains open, according to Mayor James Fiorentini's Facebook page. But non-essential employees may be sent home if the storm worsens, as expected.
Municipal rubbish collection is proceeding as scheduled where it's available in most communities although residents are urged to place their recycling and trash in places that are out of the wind. Rubbish collectors do not ordinarily pick up trash strewn pr blowing around on the ground if it is not in a bag or receptacle of some sort.
For additional details, including closure information for tomorrow, stay tuned to eagletribune.com and read tomorrow's editions of The Eagle-Tribune.
Commuter rail service will be suspended as of 2 p.m. today, according to the MBTA.