SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Residents awoke to gray skies, but by noon they had snow and slippery conditions to contend with. Shrewsbury's weather is expected to worsen as the Blizzard of 2013 wears on.
Snow could accumulate at 2 to 3 inches an hour, Shrewsbury Weather Analyst Jim Arnold warned. The potential for a winter thunderstorm could increase snowfall to nearly 6 inches an hour. The storm is expected to worsen before moving off on Saturday.
The town mobilized its emergency operations center, which coordinates with fire, police, EMA, school and highway departments, Assistant Town Manager Thomas Gregory said. The center, based out of Town Hall, will remain in operation through Saturday.
Gregory urged all residents to "shelter-in-place," in other words, to stay put.
"Be prepared, shelter in place, stay off the roads if you can, and make sure you have plenty of provisions," he said. "The town's ready, but if residents can stay off the roads, it gives crews a chance to keep them clear to the best of their ability."
Shrewsbury Electric and Light Operations representative Jackie Pratt said SELCO has coordinated its repair crews and employees are ready to camp out overnight as the storm progresses.
Between Hurricane Irene, the 2011 Halloween storm and regular maintenance, Pratt said, a lot of tree limbs have been lost. "We've spent a lot of money trimming what's left, so hopefully we won't have a lot of tree damage."
"Our biggest concern, besides the really heavy winds, is mobility," she said, adding that SELCO is somewhat dependent on highway crews plowing roads so repair crews can access downed lines.
With winds expected to gust upwards of 65 mph, driving snow, and warnings of frostbite and hypothermia, there are "definite safety issues" for linemen, she said. Generators not correctly connected to home wiring can potentially feed back into the line, she said, electrocuting linemen. Residents using generators should have them connected by a professional, said Pratt.
SELCO customers should call the utility directly at 508-841-8500 to report outages rather than attempt to communicate through Facebook or other social media.
Many Shrewsbury residents hit the grocery stores shortly before snow starting falling Friday morning to stock up.
Jerry McDonald of Shrewsbury was purchasing some last-minute meats, vegetables and basic essentials at Shaw's at White City. The day before, he said, he stocked up on batteries and water and considered himself well-prepared for the storm.
Local resident Rahul Gupta, who was also stocking up on fresh foods at Shaw's, said he was concerned the blizzard would be "far worse" than other recent storms.