Cancellations, warnings and utility updates flew as fast and furious yesterday as the snow is predicted to today.
Supermarket parking lots were jammed, shopping carts overflowed with jugs of water and enough food to get families through what promises to be a tough, snowy weekend.
Police, emergency management officials, utility spokesmen and the governor all had stern warnings for Southern New Hampshire residents.
The message was pretty universal: Be prepared, stay off the roads, stay home.
And, while you’re there, check on your neighbors.
That was a suggestion echoed all the way from Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office down to Salem fire Chief Kevin Breen.
Breen, who’s also the town’s emergency management director, urged people to get in touch with their neighbors, especially those who are older or living alone, before the worst of the storm hits.
“Check in with them. Reach out to them now, “ he said yesterday. “It’s a good time to be neighborly and check in with each other.”
He also urged people to check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“Be sure to keep snow, which will be heavy and drifting, away from furnace and gas-fired appliance vents,” Breen said. “If you have a wood stove that hasn’t been used in a while, be careful.”
A lot of local residents were out yesterday in advance of the storm, filling gas tanks, shopping carts and visiting ATMs to get some cash.
Loss of power big concern
Losing power was on many people’s minds — residents and utility officials.
Unitil, Public Service of New Hampshire, N.H. Electric Co-op and Liberty Utilities all sought to assure their customers they were prepared for potentially heavy snow and high winds. Most had third-party crews ready to step in and assist their own crews.
But local residents, many of whom have lost power for prolonged periods, were still concerned.
Some weren’t going to rely on their power company, but were buying gas for their generators or even buying generators yesterday.
David Valence, manager of Home Depot in Salem, said there was a spike in sales for generators, ice melt and rock salt.
“It’s not more people than normal, but more people are buying those items,” Valence said yesterday. “We are fortunate that we have supply in place in case there’s an increase in activity due to weather.”
Derry residents Marilyn and John Crowley of Derry said they stocked up on nonperishable food just in case, but they expected the storm to be more hype than anything.
“The weather people always tell you to expect the worse, but usually it’s nowhere near as bad,” John Crowley said.
The Crowleys said they have flashlights and blankets stored just in case, but their main concern is the power.
“It’s just the power we are worried more about more than the snow,” Marilyn Crowley said. “We use an electric stove, so if the power goes out we don’t have anything.”
While the power is a concern to the Crowleys, they are looking forward to some alone time before Valentine’s Day.
“We’re ready to get bundled up,” Crowley said. “We will use the time to get closer to each other.”
fall victim to storm
All school districts in the area canceled today’s classes yesterday, except Salem.
The deliberative session scheduled for tonight in Londonderry has been postponed until 7 p.m. Monday at the high school. Sessions in Windham and Hampstead were still a go late yesterday.
In Windham, moderator Betty Dunn is monitoring the situation and said postponement of tonight’s school deliberative is likely.
If that happens, she will convene the meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Windham High. If the weather conditions are still bad then, she intends to recess the school meeting until later, likely Tuesday night.
If Dunn is forced to postpone the town deliberative, now scheduled for tomorrow morning, she said it would be rescheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the high school.
“I know that this rescheduling will inconvenience many people, but these seem like the best possible options at this time,” Dunn said.
She is asking residents to monitor school, town and news websites for official announcements related to the meetings.
Hampstead administrative assistant Sally Theriault said yesterday the town had not made a decision about whether to postpone the town’s deliberative session tonight.
Theriault said moderator Neil Reardon expects to make a decision by this afternoon. If the session is postponed, no definitive makeup date has been set, but Theriault said the town was leaning toward Monday night.
Residents rush to
Plan ahead for parking, too. Officials urged motorists to stay off the roads and let highway crews do their work.
Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten warned drivers to keep their cars parked somewhere other than town streets.
The winter parking ban, effective from midnight to 6 a.m. throughout the season, was in effect long before this storm. In the case of a snow emergency, likely tonight and tomorrow, there is no on-street parking.
Generally, Patten said, police often will try to get people to move their vehicles before they tow them. That won’t be the case during this storm.
In a storm of this severity, we will be towing,” he said yesterday. “We’ll have tow companies lined up.”
People were lined up at supermarket checkout counters yesterday.
At Market Basket in Londonderry, the store was packed as people got ready to do last-minute shopping before the hits. Every register was open and lines were at least six carriages deep by yesterday afternoon.
“A lot of people are buying water, juice, paper towels, batteries and flashlights,” store employee Justin D’Errico said . “This amount of customers is equal to about two Sundays’ worth for us.”
D’Errico said the store had extra staff working yesterday in anticipation of large crowds.
Most shoppers said they weren’t changing their shopping habits, just doing their regular shopping done ahead of time.
“I usually go to get my things on the weekend,” said Joan DeFrancesco of Derry. “But I wanted to go today, just in case.”
Troy Mallinder of Derry said he went to the store with a list, just to make sure he didn’t forget anything.
“Just making sure we get orange juice, canned foods and, of course, beer,” he said. “We’re usually pretty well stocked.”
Breen advises people to have a gallon of water per person on hand for each of three days. The same goes for nonperishable food, he said.
Medications, pet supplies, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries and warm clothes should be on the list, too, he said.
Flashlights and lanterns were likely set out on many household counters and tables. If the wind whips up to the force predicted, power outages are likely.
Londonderry resident Maria Ettore said she’s well aware of that possibility.
Last year, Ettore said her house lost power for two weeks. This year, she said, sure she is better prepared.
Ettore was at Walmart in Derry yesterday, stocking up. She bought three bags of rock salt and a gas can.
“I’m just making sure we’re more prepared this year,” Ettore said. “It’s just such a pain to go through electricity for so long.”
The New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management wants residents to be prepared.
“There is still uncertainty about the exact track of this storm, but it seems certain that New Hampshire will experience heavy snowfalls, especially in southern areas,” said Perry Plummer, acting director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We may also see high wind gusts that could cause scattered power outages.”
Flurries and light snow should start this morning, according to Ryan Breton of Atkinsonweather.com, so the morning commute should be OK.
But that will change quickly.
Heavy snow is expected this afternoon, spreading from south to north, he said, and the evening commute will be “a mess.”
The brunt of the storm is expected overnight, with heavy snow, potentially damaging wind, drifting snow and white-outs.
Steady snow will continue tomorrow morning, along with strong wind gusts.
The state’s Emergency Operations Center will be activated throughout the storm.