Snow — and cancellations — piling up as storm hits Thursday

Monday, February 17, 2014
With a foot of snow expected to blanket the area from Thursday morning and into Friday, schools will be closed and Valley residents are braced for a lot of shoveling.

Meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell of the National Weather Service’s Boston office said that while the part of the state west of Worcester will probably avoid any sleet and freezing rain, it will see plenty of snow.

He said it will be around a foot of snow in most places with some areas, including the eastern slopes of the Berkshires, seeing more like 14 inches.

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“It will begin during the morning commute and probably pick up in intensity as we go through the day,” he said. At its worst, the storm could bring snow at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour, wind gusts up to 35 mph, and visibility of a quarter-mile or less. The latter two are features that, if sustained, would cause a storm to be classified as a blizzard, but Sipprell said the conditions are not likely to last long.

Sipprell said the storm will be “winding down” by Friday morning, but could continue into midday. Temperatures both days will be in the lower 30s.

So far, area schools have canceled classes Thursday but have not ruled yet on whether to hold school Friday. They include the public schools in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Northampton and South Hadley, Hampshire Regional School District, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Amherst Montessori School, Tri-County School, the Hartsbrook School, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School and the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.

Also closed Thursday are the People’s Institute of Northampton, the Northampton Community Music Center, and Lawrence Memorial Hall in Belchertown.

Of the events postponed around the Valley, perhaps the biggest is a UMass Amherst talk featuring novelist Toni Morrison, singer and social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon and playwright Sonia Sanchez. “Black Women in the Arts in the 21st Century” will be rescheduled, but a date has not been set, according to the university.

In Easthampton, the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting was canceled but city offices will remain open, according to City Clerk Barbara LaBombard. City officials also planned to close Mountain Road at 7 a.m. for the duration of the storm. The steep road that winds up Mount Tom is difficult to keep clear and dry in snowstorms, city officials said.

The Northampton School Committee meeting has been postponed to Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at JFK Middle School.

Amherst officials canceled all Thursday meetings except for the Zoning Board of Appeals, set for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

In Pelham, a Conservation Commission meeting where a group of hydraulic fracturing opponents planned to speak was canceled, according to group member Michael Hussin. The group, called Neighbor to Neighbor, plans to ask the Conservation Commission to ban the extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing — better known as “fracking.”

Granby Sgt. Gary Poehler said in a statement that a townwide parking ban on streets is in effect “until further notice.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.