By Jonathan Phelps
---- — They’re bringing in the heavy equipment in Salem and other area communities for what is expected to be a huge snowstorm today.
“We are preparing for the worst,” said Ron Malionek, assistant public works director in Salem.
Up to 2 feet of snow is expected to fall over the course of the major winter storm, named Nemo, according to the National Weather Service.
As of last night, most area schools were canceled for today, and parking bans are in effect across the region. Scattered power outages are anticipated with damage to trees, with wind at 30 to 40 mph and gusts up to 65 mph.
A blizzard warning has been issued for the area starting this morning and lasting until 1 p.m. tomorrow. People are advised to stay indoors and avoid travel. The storm will begin with light snow this morning, becoming heavy later in the day and continuing into the evening commute.
“(The snow) will continue all Friday night through the majority of Saturday morning,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “This is going to be a potentially historic winter storm and blizzard.”
Malionek said about 100 pieces of city-owned and contracted equipment are gearing up to help clear the streets. There will be front-end loaders and backhoes ready to help push back the snow, he said.
“When we don’t have snow on the ground, it makes it a little easier on us,” Malionek said. “But it will be a long-duration storm with 1, 2 or 3 inches falling per hour.”
Yesterday, people lined up at local stores to stock up on groceries, snow shovels and other essentials to weather the storm.
At Market Basket in Salem, so many people jammed the store that the Fire Department was summoned to check on overcrowding. A line of people waited outside to get into the store, and there were even longer lines at the registers. At 2:30 yesterday, about 40 people were queued up in aisle 18 waiting for a staffer to direct them to a check-out register.
Salem resident Jeff Butters said it took him about two hours to get his shopping done.
“I got all the essentials: water, bread and meats,” he said.
At Danvers Hardware on Maple Street, snow shovels and ice melt flew off the shelves.
“The morning was pretty hectic,” owner Mark Fain said. “We sold a few snow blowers and lots of shovels. Ice melt has been constant.”
People also bought ice scrapers, flashlights and batteries, he said. The store will receive a special shipment with more supplies this morning, he said.
The predicted high winds and snow will likely result in some power outages, said Tim Henry, director of the Ipswich Utilities Department.
“We expect there will be problems, but we are preparing to deal with them,” Henry said. “We’ll react to the outages as they happen.”
National Grid reported implementing its “storm command system” to coordinate preparation and restoration. Additional crews will be called in as needed, according to the report.
Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis said the town has called all its snow plow contractors and is preparing for plowing, salting and sanding.
“The guys haven’t seen a big storm in two years,” said Marquis.
Mike Collins, commissioner of public services and engineering in Beverly, said he’s planning on 2 feet of snow.
“We are dusting off all the equipment, which hasn’t had a lot of exercise the last two years,” he said. The city has also rented additional equipment and hired contractors with heavy snow removal equipment.
“We are taking it very seriously,” he said.
Collins said there is increasing concern about coastal flooding, especially near Dane Street Beach, which he called “vulnerable.”
Ironically, the snow is delaying the ice in Salem. Sixteen ice sculptures were scheduled to be installed downtown today as part of the Salem So Sweet festival.
“When you have that much snow, a number of locations will need to be cleared for the sculptures,” said Rinus Oosthoek, director of the Chamber of Commerce, said. “If there is a mountain of snow, you need to dig out a lot more to create the sculptures.”
All ice sculptures will be on view by 10 a.m. Sunday, he said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman contributed to this report.