Storm gives kids 1 more day off

Stephen Hebert is followed by his friend Tami Thompson, both of Greenfield, as they snow shoe down High St on their way to the Greenfield YMCA on Thursday during the snow.   Recorder/Paul Franz

Stephen Hebert is followed by his friend Tami Thompson, both of Greenfield, as they snow shoe down High St on their way to the Greenfield YMCA on Thursday during the snow. Recorder/Paul Franz

Those who made New Year’s resolutions to exercise more may have found motivation waiting in their driveways this morning, in the form of snow.

Though 2013 started with about 6 inches of snow on the ground, grass showed through a diminishing snowpack this New Year’s Day in many Franklin County yards.

But that was before “Hercules” blew through. The first snow of 2014 was given the monicker of the Greek half-man, half-god of lore by the Weather Channel, which began naming winter storms in 2012.

Weather or not Hercules lived up to the myth should be evident by now. If the forecast for this storm held true, there could be 10 inches of snow or more blanketing Greenfield this morning, and more in the hills.

Weather forecasters gave a little solace, though, saying the precipitation would be of the light and fluffy variety, rather than sticky, wet, break-your-back stuff that’s good for snowmen and not much else.

While the storm may mean hours of shovelling for some of us, it translated to an extended vacation for schoolchildren across the state. They were scheduled to return from their holiday breaks Thursday, but county schools began canceling early Wednesday evening, and today’s classes were canceled at many schools as well. Every public school district in the county, as well as Greenfield Community College, announced today’s closures by early evening Thursday.

State agencies weren’t taking any chances with the weather, either.

The speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike was lowered to 40 mph from the New York border to Weston during the storm, and propane trucks and tandem tractor-trailers were ordered not to use The Pike.

Gov. Deval Patrick sent all non-essential state workers home at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Greenfield and Orange district courts closed their doors at 3 p.m. Thursday, 90 minutes earlier than usual. They announced court would not resume until noon today, rather than the typical 9 a.m. start.

Berkshire East

While some may dread the snow, others welcome it with open arms.

Berkshire East Ski Resort in Charlemont was glad to report about 5 inches of prime, powdery, fresh-fallen snow on its slopes Thursday afternoon, and expected much more to fall by storm’s end.

“When the second wave (of the storm) comes in (Thursday night), we’re expecting another 8 to 12 inches,” said Christopher Loftus, marketing director for Berkshire East.

Loftus said the season has seen its ups and downs already. It opened on Dec. 14 with 100 percent of its trails up and running, though some warm weather and rains later in the month put a damper on skiing.

“The warm weather took away the natural snow, and closed some trails,” said Loftus. “As soon as the cold came in, though, we were able to recover very quickly.”

Thursday afternoon, Loftus said, 18 of 45 trail sections were open, with more opening as the storm continued.

The snow day certainly didn’t hurt business.

“There are lots of kids here today; it’s great,” said Loftus. He said the rain and high temperatures led to smaller crowds over the winter school break, but the snow from this storm should help make up for it.

Loftus expected many more skiers and snowboarders by nightfall.

While snow is usually good for the ski business, the coming cold will not be.

Berkshire East announced that there will be no night skiing tonight, in anticipation of the bitter cold to come. Lifts will be open for daytime skiing, though, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

While the storm may be over today, temperatures will plummet tonight. Some forecasts are calling for an overnight low of -18 degrees.

Those sub-zero temperatures could be trouble. Cars can have a tough time starting if water in the fuel system freezes. This can be prevented by topping off your tank, or tossing in some Dry Gas or other water-removing fuel additives.

Letting your vehicle run for a few minutes before driving is a good idea, too, as it allows the engine oil to warm up and properly lubricate the engine. If you’ve got a block heater, tonight would be a good night to use it.

If you find yourself venturing out into the cold, you would do well to bundle up. Frostbite can happen at any temperature below freezing, and at 18 below zero, any exposed skin is in danger of freezing.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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