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Nor’easter brings snow, rain throughout region


 Antonio Ramivez, an employee of the Monkey Bar in Amherst, shovels off the side walk Thursday afternoon.

Antonio Ramivez, an employee of the Monkey Bar in Amherst, shovels off the side walk Thursday afternoon. Purchase photo reprints »

NORTHAMPTON — Snow and rain at the freezing mark will continue across the region into midafternoon, according to the National Weather Servivce.

But precipitation remains in the forecast into Friday. While accumulation will be less than an inch, it means today's commute will end as it began, with travel hazards due to bad weather.

Temperatures will hang just above freezing, the service said. Friday should be mostly sunny with light winds.

The University of Massachusetts announced this afternoon it is closing the Amherst campus at 3 p.m.

The storm brought about what forecasters predicted: 6 to 10 inches of snow, with totals above 12 inches in the Hilltowns, where the precipitation was snow and sleet, not the rain that the lower Valley saw.

A winter storm warning remained in effect until 3 p.m. Thursday.

On Wednesday, highway department employees spent their first day back at work after Christmas outfitting trucks with plows and filling them with salt and sand as a storm that had wreaked havoc across the country bore down on the area.

“We’re keeping our eyes on the weather and planning accordingly,” Public Works Director Ned Huntley said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not an exact science.”

What was making things more complicated for local highway departments was the potential for snow to change to sleet and freezing rain sometime after midnight. The National Weather Service predicted about a tenth of an inch of ice would blanket the area, with the coastal region seeing more of the wet weather than western Massachusetts.

Easthampton Department of Public Works Director Joseph Pipczynski said the city’s plans for tackling the storm depended on if and when that change from snow to wintry mix occurred.

“We won’t know what to do until we see it coming down,” he said. “The weathermen will be the first to admit there’s some confusion in pinning down where that line of snow and rain will be.”

Slippery driving conditions were predicted for Wednesday into today, with visibilities down to a quarter-mile or less in areas of heavy snow, the National Weather Service reported.

“The best we can hope for is all snow,” Pipczynski said, explaining that employees can usually keep up with plowing and sanding. “When it changes to rain, the drains and catch basins are plugged up and water doesn’t run off correctly. And if it’s cold and it becomes ice, that’s even nastier because you could have 100 sand trucks and it wouldn’t be enough to handle every street.”

The National Weather Service also predicted winds gusting 15 to 25 mph and sometimes up to 40 mph.

Northampton and Granby both issued special overnight parking bans to keep roads clear for plows and sanders, while other communities reminded residents about their seasonal parking bans.

The Northampton ban, in effect until further notice, prohibits parking on all city streets and municipal parking lots from midnight to 6 a.m., except for Main Street, where parking is prohibited from 2 to 7 a.m. Violators are ticketed and towed.

The Armory Street parking lot is open for overnight use during parking bans except from 8 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., when plowing takes place there.

Huntley said the first snowstorm of the year always means more trouble for plows and sanders. “People don’t understand or remember about the parking ban, so we have a lot of tows,” he said.

He said he hoped the roads would be fairly good by the morning commute, but if snow continued to fall after the ban ends at 6 or 7 a.m., the plows would have to work around the parked cars.

“The best thing is to stay off the roads,” he said. “It’s going to be a pretty good storm, so people don’t need to be driving around the countryside.”

For more information or updates about the Northampton snow emergency, residents can call the “Snow Hotline” at (413) 586-6969.

Granby’s parking ban prohibits on-street parking starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday until further notice.

Seasonal parking bans prohibiting street parking are in effect until April 1 in Easthampton from 1 to 6 a.m., in Amherst from 2 to 6 a.m., in Williamsburg from midnight to 6 a.m., and 24 hours a day in Hadley.

In South Hadley, parking is allowed on the even-numbered side of streets on even-numbered days and on the odd-numbered side of streets on odd-numbered days. There is no parking allowed on Main, Bridge, Lamb, Bardwell and Lower North Main streets and Route 116.

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

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