As snow whipped across Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said power outages, which numbered around 60,000 in the early afternoon Tuesday, were a major concern from the nor’easter.
At a noon press conference Baker noted a dramatic uptick in outages and said the state may need to partner with other organizations to find shelter for those affected.
“That number was in the hundreds not so long ago. It was around 10,000 before we came out here. And now it’s 23,000,” Baker said at a televised press conference. He said, “If the power outage stuff picks up, we may end up working with some of our non-profit colleagues to open up some of the shelters so that people have a place to go if we don’t think we can get their power restored in a reasonable period of time.”
As of about 1:30 p.m. the number of statewide power outages was up around 60,000, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. By just after 2 p.m., that number was down to about 40,000.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said the increasing power outages could become a “trend” and utilities will need winds to blow around 35 miles per hour or less to use bucket trucks to restore power.
“We ask that you just be patient in restorations,” Beaton said. He said utilities were “well staged” for the late winter storm, which has been leading news reports since the weekend.
The governor said officials expect sustained winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour with gusts of up to 70 miles per hour on the coast.
Speaking at a Highway Operations Center in South Boston, Baker said the power outages are the element officials are “most concerned about.”
The governor, who told non-emergency state workers to stay home Tuesday and urged others to stay off the roads, said State Police have reported “very light traffic and no serious accidents.”
Wet snow and heavy winds along the coast present a particular risk for outages, Baker said. The governor said officials are monitoring the state’s eastern coast where high tide hit around 1:30 p.m. and he expects waves of 12 to 15 feet.
The western portions of the state started seeing the snow earliest and those areas are expected to receive the highest accumulation of around two feet, Baker said. With snow in the east expected to shift to rain combined with dropping temperatures overnight, the governor said he is also eyeing Wednesday’s commute.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said much of the MBTA is “running regular service” though some buses are on snow routes, the Mattapan trolley line has switched to buses, the ferries are not operating and the commuter rail is running on a “severe winter schedule.”
“You may not see that black pavement for a while until we have a chance to play catch up,” Pollack said.
Public Safety and Security Secretary Dan Bennett said there are 200 extra State Police patrols on the roads for a total of 600, and those troopers could be kept on the job after 4 p.m. if needed. Bennett said the National Guard is also prepared with vehicles to rescue motorists stranded in deep snow or water.
Beaton advised the public to “stay warm if you do lose power” and asked municipalities to designate one point of contact to communicate with utilities about outages.
The governor said most places around the state are seeing snowfall of 2 to 4 inches per hour, and advised people not to “overexert themselves” shoveling.
About 30 towns have opened up emergency operations centers, and five communities have activated their emergency response plans in coordination with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the governor said around noon.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said she has been in touch with local officials and they are “certainly prepared.” The governor said he would probably visit the MBTA later in the day.