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MA And CT Declare State Of Emergency, Issues Travel Bans As Winter Blast Nears

National Weather Service

Western Massachusetts is preparing for a winter storm that’s expected to drop two feet of snow, while Connecticut has declared a state of emergency as it is bracing for what forecasters are calling a blizzard. Starting this afternoon the entire state of Connecticut will be under a blizzard warning as a two-day storm is forecast to blanket the state in up to 30 inches of snow. Winds are expected to gust from 30 mph to 75 mph as snow is forecast to come down at a clip of 2-4 inches an hour. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has directed the state’s Emergency Operations Center to open at 4 o’clock while travel, unless for an emergency, is banned statewide starting at 9 p.m. The blizzard warning in Connecticut is in effect until early Wednesday.

Meanwhile, western Massachusetts is bracing for similar conditions. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency while a travel ban will start at midnight. Baker has also called on 500 National Guard troops to pre-stage across the state to assist with downed trees, stranded drivers and potentially knocking on doors. The state’s transportation department says it has more than 4,000 workers ready to clear roads with 250,000 tons of salt and 420,000 gallons of liquid de-icer on hand.

Priscilla Ress is a spokeswoman with Western Massachusetts Electric Company, which like Connecticut Light & Power is a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities. She says the company is pre-staging materials and workers across its service area and has brought on outside line workers, troubleshooters and tree crews.

“What we are most concerned about is when the snow gets heavy and wet and also we are watching the winds,” Ress said. “The winds can do significant damage to the electric system because trees are the number one cause of outages.”

Ress says if power lines do come down, customers should contact the service provider and steer clear as they may still be live. 

Airlines have cancelled more than 4,000 flights in the Northeast for Monday and Tuesday, likely to impact air travel throughout the country. As of Monday morning, 25 percent of the day’s flight schedule and 25 percent of Tuesday’s flights were cancelled at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Kevin Dillon is the executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority.

“We are anticipating as the day goes on that much more of the flight schedules will be cancelled,” Dillon said. “In fact most airlines will not be bringing in their terminating flights tonight. It’s those terminating flights that make up tomorrow’s departures. So we are anticipating that there will be significant reductions in tomorrow’s flight schedule. In fact there may not be any commercial activity at all tomorrow.”

Dillon says Bradley International, which sees 100 incoming and 100 outgoing commercial flights each day, started its storm preparation Sunday morning. More than 100 people could be working at any one time to keep the airport open.

“The airlines themselves make their own decisions so travelers really have to check with their own carrier to make sure that their particular flight is going to operate,” Dillon said. “Here at Bradley we will try to keep the airport open throughout the duration of the storm, if only for emergency purposes. As the primary commercial service airport here in Connecticut, we do try to keep at least one runway open for emergency purposes. But the fact that the airport may be open does not mean that we have commercial activity underway at the airport.”

Ress of Western Massachusetts Electric Company says people should be prepared in case the power goes out and take time to check on neighbors.

“Be sure that your prescriptions have been filled, you have fresh water, batteries, flashlights and that you’re putting them in places where you can find them,” Ress said. “Also use common sense. Don’t run a generator inside. We’ve even heard of people who will bring a grill indoors. Use common sense. Also, use this little window of time right now before the storm hits to get yourself ready.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org