With potentially historic storm looming, a scramble to prepare

Emergency officials huddled to make plans, out-of-state utility crews were summoned, officials canceled school, and residents flocked to stores for shovels and other essentials, as the Bay State girded today for a potentially historic storm that could dump up to 3 feet of snow in some areas, while winds howl and heavy waves pound the coast.

In what appeared to be the epitome of the frenzy to prepare, so many people were stocking up for the storm in Salem today that the fire department responded to the Market Basket supermarket for storm-related overcrowding, a fire official said.

With the storm set to arrive Friday morning and to intensify Friday afternoon and night, key players in emergency response met this morning at the state’s bunker in Framingham to discuss the potential blizzard and plans to respond to it, such as how to address power outages, coastal flooding, and clearing of debris.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Those attending the meetings included the National Guard, State Police, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Utilities, the utilities themselves, and the Red Cross and Salvation Army, said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge.

National Grid said in a statement it was preparing for widespread, prolonged power outages across the state, while NStar said it had declared its highest level of storm response and was bringing in hundreds of crews from Florida, Wisconsin, and Illinois to assist.

“We are absolutely taking this storm seriously and are preparing for extreme weather conditions,” said NStar spokesman Michael Durand.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news conference that Boston schools, the largest school system in the state, would be canceled Friday, one of the first in what is expected to be an avalanche of closings. He also urged commuters to take public transit and stay out of downtown Friday so crews will have room on the roads to plow.

Logan International Airport warned of flight delays and cancellations, advising travelers to check with airlines ahead of departures and to allot extra travel time.

The MBTA said that it had taken numerous steps to prepare, including inspecting subway cars’ sleet scrapers and ensuring all snow-fighting equipment was prepared and ready.

Peter Pan Bus Lines canceled service for travel north of New York City starting Friday until further notice. Amtrak trains may be delayed, given prior storms’ impact on service, though nothing is set yet, an Amtrak spokesman said.

In Hull, emergency management teams were getting staff in place, equipment checked, and securing beach infrastructure ahead of the storm, said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Russo. Crews at the town highway department will be filling in low-lying areas of the town’s dunes to prepare for the high winds and high tides.

“We can’t stop the water from coming, can’t stop the snow from coming. We can only deal with it effectively,” Russo said.

Meanwhile, inland, more than 300 people had already visited Kevin Cunningham’s Model Hardware store in Allston this morning, just 2½ hours since he opened.

“This is our Christmas,” Cunningham said.

The store’s shelves were stocked with 900 shovels and about 73,000 pounds of rock salt ahead of the storm, he said, with more already on order for Monday.

“You’ll never see me without rock salt,” Cunningham said.