Bracing for the cold: 2-day cold front to bring dangerous temps, warming centers to open

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL and SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writers

Published: 02-03-2023 10:30 AM

Cities and towns in Hampshire County are advising residents to take shelter Friday and Saturday during an upcoming arctic cold front that will see wind chill factor temperatures drop to 30 below zero with gusts of up to 40 mph.

The cold front, which originated north of the Great Lakes region before moving into New England, will begin early Friday, with temperature starting in the mid-teens and dropping to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind chills reaching 21 below zero. The cold front will last into Saturday evening, with wind chills beyond negative 30 degrees before tapering off, with temperatures returning back to normal on Sunday.

The National Weather Service warns that such cold can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.

“If you need to go outside, dress in layers, and get more protection than just one heavy coat,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist at the NWS station in Norton. “If you have pets, bring them in — it’s not a good time to have them outside.”

The city of Northampton will offer several places as warming centers, where people can take shelter from the cold. Those locations include:

■The Manna Community Center at St. John’s Church on Elm Street, open from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

■ The Northampton Police Department lobby is available 24/7 and anyone is welcome to stay to warm up.

■The Northampton Senior Center will also be open on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will also provide shelter for individuals looking to warm up.

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In Easthampton, the city will offer two warming centers for use on Friday and Saturday. The Easthampton Council on Aging, located at 19 Union St., will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, and the Easthampton Public Safety Complex will serve that purpose on Saturday during the same timeframe.

As of Thursday, Amherst was offering tips for staying warm during the extreme cold, but didn’t have plans to offer a shelter. The forecast, though, prompted the Amherst Business Improvement District and Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce to postpone the Luminaria, scheduled for Saturday on the Town Common, to Feb. 11. The Luminaria will now be paired with the Fire & Ice event that includes ice sculpting, s’mores, hot chocolate and live fire performances.

Hadley’s emergency management team is advising people who need a warm place to be to use the Hadley Public Library, 50 Middle St., which is open from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Residents have the option of visiting the Hampshire Mall located at 367 Russell St. during the hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and in the event you are unable to find a warming space and need relief after hours the lobby of the Public Safety Complex, 15 East St is available from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Michael Spanknebel said in a statement.

Holyoke Public Schools have canceled all classes on Friday in anticipation of the cold weather, as well as all after-school activities, though district offices remain open. The school cited “significant safety risks to students walking outside or waiting for school buses,” in deciding to cancel school. Providence Ministries will serve as a warming center for city residents during the cold front.

The state fire marshal’s office is also issuing an advisory, warning residents to avoid fire and carbon monoxide hazards while keeping warm during the cold front.

“It’s important to keep space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, and anything else that can burn,” State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey said in a statement. “Plug them directly into a wall socket, not an extension cord or a power strip, and remember that they’re intended for temporary use. Always turn a space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep.”

Meanwhile flights at Logan Airport have already been impacted this week due to inclement weather across the country and delays at both Logan and Worcester Regional Airport are possible with the frigid temperature expected this weekend, according to the state Department of Transportation. Massport is urging passengers to check with their airlines on the status of their flight before coming to the airports.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.]]>