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Massachusetts prepares ahead of major storm

Emergency plans are being reviewed, out-of-state utility crews are en route to lend a hand, officials are canceling school, and residents are flocking to stores for shovels and other essentials, as the Bay State girds for a potentially historic storm that could dump up to 2 feet of snow in some areas, while winds howl and heavy waves pound the coast.

In what appeared to be the epitome of the frenzy to prepare, so many people were stocking up for the storm in Salem today that the fire department responded to the Market Basket supermarket for storm-related overcrowding, a fire official said.

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With the storm set to arrive Friday morning and to intensify Friday afternoon and night, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge said key players in storm response were meeting this morning at the state’s emergency bunker in Framingham to discuss the potential blizzard and plans to respond to it, such as how to address power outages, coastal flooding, and clearing of debris.

Those attending the meetings included the National Guard, State Police, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Utilities, the utilities themselves, and the Red Cross and Salvation Army, he said.

National Grid said in a statement it was preparing for widespread, prolonged power outages across the state, while NStar said it had declared its highest level of storm response and was bringing in hundreds of crews from Florida, Wisconsin, and Illinois to assist.

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“We are absolutely taking this storm seriously and are preparing for extreme weather conditions,” said NStar spokesman Michael Durand.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news conference that Boston schools, the largest school system in the state, would be canceled Friday, one of the first in what is expected to be an avalanche of closings. He also urged commuters to take public transit Friday so crews will have room on the roads to plow.

State Department of Transportation officials were expected to brief the media later today on their response plans. Electronic highway signs began Thursday night to blare warnings about the blizzard watches posted by the National Weather Serice.

The MBTA said that by Thursday morning, the MBTA said it had covered exposed electrical connections on Green Line cars to prevent freezing and damage from drifting and packed snow, checked and inspected subway cars’ sleet scrapers, and ensured all snow-fighting equipment was prepared and ready.

In Hull, emergency management teams were getting staff in place, equipment checked, and securing beach infrastructure ahead of the storm, said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Russo Crews at the town highway department will be filling in low-lying areas of the town’s dunes to prepare for the high winds and high tides.

“We can’t stop the water from coming, can’t stop the snow from coming. We can only deal with it effectively,” Russo said.

Meanwhile, inland, more than 300 people had already visited Kevin Cunningham’s Model Hardware store in Allston this morning, just 2½ hours since he opened.

“This is our Christmas,” Cunningham said.

The store’s shelves were stocked with 900 shovels and about 73,000 pounds of rock salt ahead of the storm, he said, with more already on order for Monday.

“You’ll never see me without rock salt,” Cunningham said.

Employees at the Wine Emporium on Tremont Street in the South End were getting ready for a “busy evening” of people stocking up on distilled essentials ahead of the storm, said clerk Robert Walton.

Cunningham said his work at the store comes full circle from his experience in the Blizzard of 1978, which dumped a record 27.1 inches of snow on Boston, when he made money shoveling sidewalks.

Now, he makes money selling the shovels.

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.dezenski@globe.com
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