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Northern Berkshire Emergency Shelter Opened During Storm
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
03:45PM / Wednesday, March 15, 2023
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — National Grid reported more than 100,000 customers were without power during the height of the storm and that roughly 14,000 customers Berkshire, Worcester, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, and Franklin counties still needed service to be restored as of Wednesday morning.
There were pockets without power across the county, including about 300 customers in North County. Some had been told restoration wouldn't be possible until sometime Thursday. 
The lack of power meant some people were unable to keep warm or had difficulties because of medical conditions. 
The Northern Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee opened an emergency shelter at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night and had housed about nine people who needed shelter and warmth. 
The decision to open the shelter came after a regional conference call Tuesday afternoon — all of New Ashford, and parts of Clarksburg and Williamstown were out of power and the utility couldn't confirm when it could be restored. 
"We did not want to do this in the middle of the night. Plus, they were expecting heavier winds in the nighttime, so it just made sense to just open it immediately after that call," said planning committee Chair Amalio Jusino on Wednesday. "We just opened up and within 15 minutes we had our first person and that was from Readsboro."
It was the first time the shelter had been activated since the evacuation of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts towers in 2015 and, for a natural disaster, since Hurricane Irene in 2011. 
The shelter was being supported by Northern Berkshire Transport and those taking shelter were supplied with refreshments and snacks during their stay. Jusino said families were also providing necessities. 
A conference call was to take place at 3 to determine if the shelter should stay open another night; otherwise, it would close at 5 p.m. 
Jusino said the planning committee was looking at other ways to get the word out to let people know when the emergency shelter is open. 
We rely on Facebook a lot, he said, but not everyone is on social media. Mayor Jennifer Macksey sent out a Code Red alert that did get the message to individual households but it might not be enough in some cases, he continued. 
"In our after action report, we may see something like, Wheel Estates for instance, we may have to utilize that door to door, old school to get it out there," Jusino said."Not everybody's on social media, some people have landline phones and your power's out or a cordless phone and your power's out, you're all done."
For example, he said a North Adams police officer was with the team on Tuesday night and knew there were some people whose housing was unstable and went to check on them to see if they needed help. 
Jusino did want to make clear that a regional shelter is just that — for anyone in the area in need. 
"We weren't selective that you had to have the power out," he said. "It was to get people out of the elements and provide a service to the community."
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