NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Northbridge DPW employees began prepping for the storm at 10 a.m. Friday.
One operated a front-end loader, adding to the pile of sand available to residents just outside the gate of the DPW on Fletcher Street.
Highway Department salt/sand trucks came into the DPW yard empty and left full, assigned to pre-treat roads to keep ice from forming as light snow fell and temperatures dropped.
Standing at the ready were several plows, which will be attached to trucks as the need arises, and it will arise.
Forecasters predict up to 2 feet of snow between 4 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.
While DPW workers prepared for 24 or more hours of non-stop activity, the Fire Department, Police Department and emergency management personnel were thinking ahead.
Police officers knocked on doors, telling residents to get their vehicles off the road so they wouldn't impede snow plowing operations. Both fire stations were manned, ensuring a quick response at either end of town should the need arrive.
And key emergency management volunteers, under the direction of Fire Chief Gary Nestor, gathered in the town's Emergency Management Services office for a conference call with the state's Emergency Management Agency.
In that call, a meteorologist said 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet of snow could fall and emphasized that she had "high confidence'' in that forecast. She also said strong wind will create 5-foot drifts. Central Mass. can expect wind speeds of between 25 and 50 mph. In the northeast, winds will be 35 to 50 mph with gusts of hurricane strength, she said.
Evening rush hour driving conditions will be "treacherous,'' she said.
Kurt N. Schwartz, undersecretary for homeland security and emergency management in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), said communities should "expect a long plowing operation at the state and local level'' and try to be patient.
He said National Grid has "hundreds and hundreds of crews situated throughout the state'' to respond to outages.
The American Red Cross is prepared to open shelters if they become necessary and advised each community to set up a warming centers. EMS volunteer Dick West said Northbridge plans to do that on Saturday. The warming shelter is the Senior Center on Highland Street.
The need for emergency services "doesn't happen the day of the storm; that need comes in the days after the storm," EMS volunteer Mark Widner said.