Gov. Baker: SE Mass. is biggest concern for winter storm

BOSTON (WPRI) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday the southeastern part of the state remains his “biggest concern” in the impending winter storm, largely because of power outages.

“When I say Southeastern Mass., I mean literally from, like, Plymouth all the way down onto the Cape,” Baker said during an 8 a.m. briefing with other state officials.

“There’s three issues in Southeastern Mass. on this,” he said. “The first is the rain turning to freezing rain, probably to wet snow. The second issue is the high winds associated with that, which are expected to primarily be along the coast, and we’re talking about winds that could be between 50 and 70 miles an hour, gusting up to 70 miles an hour.”

“And then the third issue is, the freezing cold temperatures are going to come after this,” he said. “And the winds will probably continue to be bad on Friday.”

“So the way to think about this is – wet snow, freezing rain, on all of the transmission stuff and distribution lines associated with power are a problem to begin with,” Baker continued. “You toss in very high winds, and that creates another issue. And then if you have freezing temperatures tomorrow, on top of very wet snow and freezing rain, you have the potential for lines to break, and if you have winds blowing at 30, 40, 50 mph it’s very hard for the utility folks to use the bucket trucks and get up to restore the lines.”

Echoing Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito warned Southeastern Massachusetts residents to “be prepared for prolonged outages, given the forecast.”

However, Baker went on to say it’s possible the relatively quick pace of the storm – expected to arrive by late morning and be winding down by early evening – could benefit the region by limiting serious damage. He recommended residents keep their electronic devices charged.

Overall, the message from Massachusetts officials was the same one they have given before – stay off the roads, be prepared for outages, check on elderly and vulnerable neighbors, and prepare for travel delays on the MBTA and at the airport.

Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts’ secretary of transportation, said about 2,500 pieces of equipment were already treating roads across the Bay State, a number that could rise to about 4,200. She also estimated ridership on the MBTA commuter rail, which is using a limited schedule, was less than half its usual level on Thursday morning.

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