NEW BEDFORD — Eastern Massachusetts is hunkered down for another body blow from a winter storm, this one the second blizzard this season.
The National Weather Service in Taunton upgraded its storm warnings early Saturday, issuing blizzard warnings for the shoreline and areas as much as 35 miles inland. There will be drifting and blowing snow, accumulating about 10-14 inches, much less than the late January blizzard but still significant.
Outer Cape Cod and the Islands are predicted to get hit with hurricane-force winds. Hurricane conditions are also predicted for several miles out to sea, although most, if not all, vessels have sought shelter.
Throughout the event, the temperature is expected to plummet as arctic air moves in behind the storm. The weather service predicted possible record lows through Monday.
The storm slowly built in from the west on Saturday afternoon, the snowfall becoming steadily heavier as the hours passed. After a midnight lull, the weather service predicted the biggest blast will happen early today and into Monday.
Parking bans were put into effect Saturday in New Bedford, Fall River, Fairhaven, Acushnet and Dartmouth. By nightfall, with the plows having yet to hit the streets in force, driving was very difficult and there were numerous reports of motorists driving off the roads and getting stranded.
Along the New Bedford waterfront, fishing boats were secured against the storm and there was little activity as of Saturday afternoon.
The Coast Guard, meanwhile, issued a warning about ice building up across the coastal region. The Coast Guard said that mariners who must operate should try to do so in daylight with one-mile minimum visibility. Mariners should watch for navigational buoys that have been displaced by ice, and keep their GPS and radar running.
Supermarkets for the fourth weekend in a row were full of customers buying nonperishable food and storm supplies.
Ice melt was in particularly short supply. A dozen pallets of it were swept from the Somerset Home Depot within a few hours, as customers lined up for a precious 50-pound bag.
Overall, SouthCoast communities say they are ready to tackle the snow — again.
The wind and the snowdrifts are going to be a problem coupled with freezing temperatures, said David Hickox, director of public works in Dartmouth.
“At this time we are watching the storm closely,” said Mary Lyons, chief of police and emergency management director in Mattapoisett in an email. “It appears that the brunt of the storm will be Saturday late afternoon and evening. While the snow is a concern, the prediction of high winds, possibly hurricane force winds, and the bitterly cold temperatures bring another dimension to the snowstorm.”
After spending most of the week clearing up piles of snow in and around St. Luke’s, crews are “trying to balance some fatigue with having to get ready to work again,” said Peter Cohenno, spokesman for Southcoast Health.
“My guys are starting to get tired. It’s been a long month and we’ll be working through Monday probably,” said Jeremy Peck, superintendent of streets in Lakeville.
Crews will probably be working Sunday and Vincent Furtado, public works superintendent in Fairhaven, said he hoped they are not working all of Monday too.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Frank O’Reagan, operations manager at STAT Southcoast EMS said they are gearing up for another busy weekend.
“Depending on how bad it is, we will put extra people out,” he said.
New Bedford Fire will also put out extra people during the snowstorm Saturday evening. District chiefs usually drive alone but will be paired up with another member, said Fire Chief Michael Gomes.
“We will evaluate conditions and take steps accordingly,” he said.
Eversource (formerly NStar) is prepping its vehicles for slippery road conditions and will also have extra crew available throughout the storm. Residents can find out about outages with online or by calling 1-800-592-2000. Residents are warned not to approach downed wires and to have a storm kit handy, said spokesperson Rhiannon D’Angelo.
Department of Public Infrastructure Commissioner Ron Labelle said this the worst snow season he has seen in many years but that city crews are ready to do the job.
“It’ll be a special event and we are going to concentrate on keeping the streets clear for emergency vehicles,” he said.
“Like any other storm, you have to wait and see what the effects are going to be,” said Jeffrey Osuch, executive secretary in Fairhaven. “Crew will be out and working as the need arises. Obviously the more snow we get the worse it’s going to be.
Several town officials urged the public to stay off the roads during the storm to make cleanup easier and help their neighbors for safety reasons.
“I encourage residents to continue to abide by the requests of public safety officials during the storm to stay of the snow covered roads unless it is absolutely necessary to be out,” said Mary Lyons, chief of police in Mattapoisett. “I would ask neighbors to help shovel out elderly neighbors which assists the emergency responders if there is a need for an ambulance.”