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Hurricane Sandy closes municipal offices, schools, roads; first power outages reported; other essential information

The approach of Hurricane Sandy has resulted in school and road closings, many area businesses shutting down early Monday and the first reports of scattered power outages in the region.

At midday Monday, there were 10 people already housed at the regional shelter at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Locust Street in Northampton, according to city emergency management officials. The shelter, operated by the American Red Cross, is open to residents throughout Hampshire County who need a safe haven and will be open 24 hours a day until further notice.

Amherst Town manager John Musante declared a state of emergency Monday morning and announced that the shelter for homeless people operated at the First Baptist Church by Craig’s Doors would open today at 5 p.m. The 22-bed shelter had been scheduled to open Thursday.

The Western Massachusetts Electric Co. reported small pockets of electrical outages in the Amherst and Hadley area, where 94 customers were without power about noon.

Both utilities which serve Hampshire County have maps showing power outages.

Click here for Western Massachusetts Electric Co.

Click here for National Grid.

In the early afternoon, winds began blowing which were strong enough to swing traffic lights and knock slim branches from trees.

Most businesses in the wind- and rain-swept downtown Northampton had closed by 2 p.m. Monday — some never opened for the day at all — with hand-written signs posted in doorways urging people to “stay safe.”

On a drive down Route 5 from Northampton to West Springfield, a Gazette reporter saw five, small downed limbs in the road about the circumference of a quarter or half dollar; a few traffic lights twisting in the wind; several metal pieces about the size of half sheets of paper and soda cans somersault over the pavement; and a slim, six-foot tall limb snap off a tree in a residential neighborhood.

The wind had whipped around a mirror installed to help drivers make turns at a dangerous intersection so that it was facing the sky instead of the road. In the last half an hour rain drops fluctuated in size and frequency. The wind isn’t strong enough to shake a mid-sized car, but it was noticeably picking up speed throughout the 25-minute trip.

Here is other essential information for area residents during the storm:

∎ All state buildings are closed.

∎ All municipal offices in Amherst, Easthampton and Northampton are closed.

∎ PVTA suspended bus service at 1 p.m. Monday.

∎ All highways in Connecticut closed at 1 p.m. Monday, including Interstate 91. State police said there were no plans to close I-91 in Massachusetts.

∎ Northampton’s Emergency Operations Center is open and can be reached at 413-587-1160.

∎ A regional shelter is open at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School for residents of Hampshire County.

∎ The University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Holyoke Community College are all closed.

∎ Schools throughout the region closed Monday. Northampton public schools are closed again on Tuesday. A forum on the proposed later high school start time has been rescheduled to 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at Northampton High School.

∎ The public information meeting on the proposed Community Preservation Act in Westhampton was postponed from Monday to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Town hall.

∎ The Holyoke Mall planned to close at 5 p.m. Monday.

Here are telephone numbers, websites, and Twitter addresses for storm updates:

∎ The Daily Hampshire Gazette: www.gazettenet.com, @gazettenet, 413-584-5000

∎ Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.fema.gov, @fema

∎ Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency : www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/mema/, @massema

∎ Western Massachusetts Electric Co.: www.wmeco.com/, power outage map, @wmeco, 413-781-4300

∎ National Grid: www1.nationalgridus.com/Massachusetts, power outage map, 1-800-465-1212

∎ Red Cross: www.redcross.org, @redcrosscwm, 978-537-3339

∎ Massachusetts State Police: www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/msp, @massstatepolice, 413-584-3000

∎ Northampton Police: www.northamptonpd.com, 413-587-1105

∎ Northampton Fire Department: www.northamptonfire.org, 413-587-1148

∎ Amherst Police: www.amherstpd.org, 413-259-3000

∎ Amherst Fire: www.amherstma.gov/fire, 413-259-3000

∎ Easthampton Police and Fire: www.easthampton.org, 413-527-1212

∎ Hadley Police and Fire: www.hadleyma.org, 413-584-0883

∎ South Hadley Police: www.southhadley.org, 413-538-8231

∎ South Hadley Fire (Falls Section): 413-532-5343

∎ South Hadley fire (College Section): 413-534-5803

∎ Regional first responder information: www.fireground360.com, @fireground360

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