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Williamstown Preps for Irene
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
06:07PM / Saturday, August 27, 2011
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The intersection of Meacham Street and Latham Street has already been sandbagged to help prevent flooding.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town officials are prepped for Hurricane Irene that is expected to batter the county on Sunday.

Many department heads met Saturday morning for a conference call with the National Weather Service and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and to coordinate their efforts.

Town officials are strongly urging residents at the Spruces Mobile Home Park to evacuate because of the threat of flooding. Those residents are encouraged to stay with friends and family.

"We do believe the Spruces will flood tomorrow," Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who is also the town's emergency management director. "We are prepared to evacuate the Spruces."

Dufour Bus Co. is on call with a school bus and the Council on Aging's van will be ready in case a massive evacuation is needed. Town officials do not expect the bus to be needed. Residents can also park their cars in the Mount Greylock Regional High School's parking lot to avoid damage.

"We have people calling, going door to do and asking them to get out," Kim Purcelli, Spruces park manager, said.

Purcelli said she knows of many residents who will not leave. Residents were also given signs to hang in their windows to signal that they have left, which will help emergency personnel. Police said they will be keeping an eye on the park while the residents are gone.

Residents who cannot get out on their own can contact the Council on Aging for transportation.

The Elementary School will be opened as a shelter for all residents at 7 a.m. Sunday but officials want residents to use it only as a last resort and instead stay at home. Residents who do go to the shelter should use the School Street entrance and can park at the school. Pets will be allowed if they are in crates. Town Clerk Mary Kennedy said there will be a few extra crates available.

Elementary School Principal Joelle Brookner said there are no cots and that residents should bring any medication and hygiene supplies with them to the shelter.

The high school will be the secondary shelter. Officials do not expect that to be needed but they will use local media to inform citizens if it opened.

The biggest threat is flooding and Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said he will be in contact with National Grid to cut power to any homes that may face electric problems that could cause a fire.

The department heads have already  planned out shifts for employees to be working throughout the storm. Department of Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser added that the Hoosic River will rise significantly after the storm passes and officials should have personnel ready for then.

The Emergency Operations Center has been opened and will be staffed throughout the night. For information or to report downed trees or flooding, call 413-458-3500 or 413-458-5733.

While each official will be in charge of their own departments, the town officials will be in contact with each other throughout the storm.

"This truly is a group effort," Fohlin said.
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