Hingham officials plan to declare a local emergency this evening in preparation for a massive snowstorm making it’s way to the South Shore town.The declaration will be declared by selectmen Thursday evening to go into effect starting 7 a.m. Friday morning.
“What the fire chief has asked the board to do, and I expect they will, is to declare a local emergency. It doesn’t close anything, but it allows departments in cases of need to exceed their budget and to do things out of the ordinary,” said Assistant Town Administrator Betty Foley.
Foley said the declaration doesn't provide carte blanche, and that there's no expectation of going drastically over budget. But it does allow the town to bring in extra equipment or utilize overtime if needed.
The preparations are one of many the town is making as what appears to be the biggest snowstorm Hingham has seen in two winters barrels toward the area.
Sand and salt stocks are in order, and the Department of Public Works has made arrangement with crews.
Hingham Public Schools will release students two hours early on Friday. High school students will be released at 12:30 p.m., and all after school activities on Friday afternoon and Saturday will be canceled.
Town Hall will close at 1 p.m. as usual on a Friday.
At the waterfront, Hingham Harbormaster Ken Corson said, all the boats are out of the water and employees are on high alert.
“At this point we don’t have many concerns other than what we normally do when we have high tides at this level. We’re a coastal community and we’re used to these storms. We’re doing everything we can and we’re ready,” Corson said.
Hingham Municipal Light Plant is also at the ready, making sure on Thursday that trucks were stocked and all hand tools were working.
“We’ve made sure everyone is going to be around, we’ve told people to expect extended hours,” said Paul Heanue, general manager for Hingham Municipal Light. “We’re going to catch the noon update to make our final staffing plans. When people go home today they will know what we expect in terms of staffing.”
According to Heanue, the company has nine linemen around to fix problems and meter readers will be on hand to watch downed wires until crews can come out and fix them. Meter technicians will also be out doing smaller repairs.
“Everyone steps out of what could be their normal operating role and works towards restoration,” Heanue said.
The department also contracts with a tree crew that will be around to remove any limbs or downed foliage.
The hope is to be back up and running by the regular within a few days.
“For Hurricane Sandy, we were done Tuesday night, the rest of the utilities were having at it awhile longer than that. Irene we were done Monday night. The October snowstorm we were done Tuesday/Wednesday. We have a good track record,” Heanue said.
According to Michael Page, who operates HinghamWeather.com, the storm is a compilation of weather systems that should provide problematic for much of the South Shore.
Page’s projections for total snowfall were a bit more conservative, in the 10-15 inch range, but without question he said communities could expect at least a foot of snow.
The cause is an energy system moving out of the Great Lakes, which will combine with an existing storm moving up the coast from the south. The two will collide off the New England coastline.
Combined with a cold area of high pressure in Canada – what has been missing for the last two years – residents could expect to see much more snow that they have had in the last two winters.
For coastal communities, the biggest concern will be wind and storm surge.
“We will see wind gusts in the 60-65 mph range…you have all this wind pushing water towards the shoreline … it’s a multifaceted storm,” Page said.
The worst of the storm will come after dinner Friday night into Saturday morning, where snow will be coming down one to three inches per hour alongside strong winds.
“I would categorize this as a blizzard - three hours at least of 35 mph winds or greater and at the same time you need visibility a quarter of a mile or less…this is almost a shore bet along the coastline because it will be so windy and the snow will come down at such a pace.”
Hingham residents can check for updates on the town’s website.
If warranted, the town will activate their Emergency Management Center and will send out announcements via the town’s homepage.