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Bracing for a blizzard: Residents, businesses, utilities prepare for up to 2 feet of snow

  • Terry Blake, director of the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church, carries a donated blanket and a jacket to her car after checking in on a homeless camp near the Friendly Kitchen during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Terry Blake, director of the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church, carries a donated blanket and a jacket to her car after checking in on a homeless camp near the Friendly Kitchen during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Mike Riley, an outreach worker with the Community Action Program for Belknap-Merrimack Counties, walks through homeless encampments in Concord checking on residents and inviting them to the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Mike Riley, an outreach worker with the Community Action Program for Belknap-Merrimack Counties, walks through homeless encampments in Concord checking on residents and inviting them to the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)

    This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)

    This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • Terry Blake, director of the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church, carries a donated blanket and a jacket to her car after checking in on a homeless camp near the Friendly Kitchen during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Mike Riley, an outreach worker with the Community Action Program for Belknap-Merrimack Counties, walks through homeless encampments in Concord checking on residents and inviting them to the cold weather shelter at the First Congregational Church during the Nor'easter on Friday, February 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)
  • This image released by NASA from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 shows a massive winter storm coming together as two low pressure systems merge over the northeast U.S. Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. (AP Photo/NASA)

In the hours before darkness settled on Concord yesterday evening, Terry Blake and Mike Riley pulled on layer after layer of clothing and headed out to the brush on the city’s fringe.

Blake, director of the Cold Weather Shelter at First Congregational Church in Concord, and Riley, an outreach worker with the Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties, wanted to find any of the shelter’s regular guests who were delaying coming in from their campsites before it got too dark, too windy, too cold and too harsh to maneuver the terrain where they camp.

The Cold Weather Shelter worked with the Friendly Kitchen Thursday and yesterday to provide a safe and warm place for the city’s homeless population during the winter storm that is forecast to produce between 18 and 24 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 40 mph.

The shelter can accommodate 60 people, Blake said. Forty-five people stayed overnight on Thursday, but she expected a full house last night.

“There’s one couple that always stays out, and they’re going to stay out tonight,” Blake said last night at 6. “We’re respectful and if they don’t want to come in, it’s their choice. We want to make sure they know we have a space for them, we’ll make a space for them.”

At the same time Blake and Riley encouraged people to come in from the cold, Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency for the state, as forecasters increased the potential snowfall for some areas to 30 inches.

Concord remained in a band of the storm expected to produce between 12 and 18 inches overnight, with several more inches to fall today.

The storm turned fatal yesterday afternoon, when one man died in Auburn after losing control of his vehicle on Route 28. The SUV he was driving crashed into a tree shortly before 12:30 p.m. The police had not released his identity by press time, but said they believed the crash was related to the wintry road conditions.

The only reported motor vehicle accidents on Concord roads yesterday were minor, according to police. One happened at the intersection of Loudon and Old Loudon roads, with others at the intersection of Centre and Main streets and on Pleasant Street, according to Concord police Lt. Mike McGuire.

State police dispatch Supervisor Shelley Marshall said they spent the afternoon responding to reports of vehicles off the road “just about everywhere.”

Open and shut

The U.S. Postal Service pulled all drivers in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont off the road at 3 p.m.; the local Fed Ex office closed at 2 p.m., and the United Postal Service in Concord closed at 4.

The Postal Service planned to resume operations today, but FedEx won’t open again until tomorrow at 9 a.m., and UPS until 7:30 Monday morning.

But at 5 p.m. in downtown Concord, a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver was out and about, as were Capital Area Transit buses.

The buses were scheduled to run until 6:30 p.m., and dispatcher Donna Poulin said in the afternoon she didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t complete their schedule.

“We do not close early unless ordered to by the government,” she said. “I’ve been here 10 years, and we’ve never been ordered to shut down. We drive through anything. We may be slow but we can get there.”

Many other transportation options suspended operations yesterday before the worst of the storm arrived.

The last bus out of Concord via Concord Coach Lines left yesterday at about 11 a.m., and service isn’t expected to resume until tomorrow, according to Heidi Lessard, Concord Coach customer service manager.

Company representatives are scheduled to be at the office today as of 5 a.m., to answer phones but the office will be closed to the public, she said.

Many commercial flights out of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport are also suspended due to the storm. Airlines have been rebooking passengers for the last couple of days in preparation, according to Tom Malafronte, assistant airport manager.

To check on the status of a flight, visit flymanchester.com/flights.

Concord’s two movie theaters were both closed by 4 p.m., and the YMCA announced yesterday afternoon it will be open today but all classes are canceled.

Power prep

Unitil began preparing for the storm in the middle of the week, with everyone in the company given a special storm assignment. That means someone in accounting, for example, might be asked to work on logistics such as finding hotels for all of the outside contractors the company has called in to help with potential outages.

There are approximately 140 Unitil crews out, which includes a total of about 700 people, spokesman Alec O’Meara said. Despite the extra crews, the weather could still cause delays in fixing outages because it may be hard for the trucks to drive to the outages, he said.

Public Service of New Hampshire is bringing in crews all the way from Alabama and Oklahoma to respond to possible power outages from the storm, said spokesman Martin Murray. Responders include at least 75 two-person PSNH line crews, 200 external two-man line and tree crews, and a number of crews brought in specially for the storm to total about 1,100 people, Murray said.

PSNH expects outages due primarily to wind rather than the snow, which is supposed to be light and dry. Murray said they expect the most damage overnight and in the southern parts of the state and along the Seacoast.

By press time, the companies’ web pages reported no outages.

Fun to be had

For snow lovers, the storm isn’t all bad news.

Beaver Meadow Golf Course will be grooming its cross country trails and have them open for skiers by noon today, and the conditions will be better tomorrow, according to the golf course’s Facebook page. The Bar and Grille will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow for skiers, and the course will continue to post updates about conditions on their Facebook page.

Stephanie Rege and Chris Perriello, walking on Main Street yesterday afternoon, came up from Massachusetts for the weekend and plan to ski at Mount Sunapee Resort tomorrow.

“We’re really excited for the snow,” Rege said. “It’s been a dry couple of years.”

Employees at Pats Peak in Henniker were jockeying to be allowed off the clock early yesterday afternoon, but not so they could beat the weather home or abide by officials’ recommendation that everyone head home before 7 p.m., according to Kris Blomback, general manager at the Henniker ski area.

“We’re not sending anyone home early, and they wouldn’t go if we did. There’s a ton of employees out there skiing now,” he said around 3 p.m. “We’re a bunch of powder junkies. This is what we live for.”

(Monitor reporter Ben
Leubsdorf and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews. Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne. Jeremy Blackman can reached 369-3319 or jblackman@cmonitor.com.)

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