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Rhode Island preps for this weekend’s major snow storm

“We’re trying to get the word out to everyone: prepare, go out today and tomorrow, get your groceries and the food you would need,” the acting director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency said Thursday

Children sled on a hill overlooking Narragansett Bay in Warwick, R.I., at dusk on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, after a winter storm dumped up to a foot of fresh snow across much of the Northeast. (AP Photo/William J. Kole)William J. Cole/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island could see a foot or more of snow, widespread power outages, and minor coastal flooding with a weekend storm bearing down on the region, emergency planners say.

“We’re trying to get the word out to everyone: prepare, go out today and tomorrow, get your groceries and the food you would need,” Tom Guthlein, the acting director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, said Thursday morning.

Forecasts right now show much of Rhode Island getting 12 inches of snow, with flakes starting to fall Friday night and accelerating Saturday, Guthlein said. Eastern pockets of the state could get 18 inches, Guthlein said. It’s expected to be a lighter, more powdery snow, which would be good for keeping the power on.

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The forecasts could, of course, change. But emergency planners in the state have been working for days to prepare for the storm, especially with resources already stretched thin due to COVID-19. The National Guard is working in hospitals right now, and Marc Pappas, the director of the emergency management agency, is now working on the state’s pandemic response.

“That’s why we started planning early, to try to make those contingency plans, because of COVID and maybe some shortfalls in staffing areas,” Guthlein said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, New England Division, said Thursday afternoon that they would not be closing the hurricane barriers in advance of the storm.

“Currently there are no projected closure times of the hurricane barriers. Water levels, conditions, and the latest forecasts will be closely watched during this storm and we will be prepared to take action if necessary,” Bryan Purtel of the US Army Corps of Engineers said in a statement.

Other storm prep tips, in addition to the runs for bread, milk and other staples:

  • Charge your devices.
  • Don’t keep pets outside.
  • If you go outside, cover all your skin, especially given then whipping winds.
  • Don’t overload outlets with space heaters.
  • And don’t drive during the storm if you don’t have to. Saturday will be “very challenging,” Guthlein said.

Col. James Manni, the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, said the agency was bringing in extra personnel on Friday into Saturday, and stationing some troopers at bridges in the event that high winds force traffic closures.

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“We’re in the planning stages for a major storm, something we have handled dozens of times over the years,” Manni said. “It’s second nature to us.”

Hospitals, too, were preparing for the storm. Lifespan spokeswoman Kathleen Hart said Rhode Island Hospital had, as it usually does in preparation for storms, generators on standby. Also, the hospital usually sets up beds for the staff in Gerry House, the resident dormitory on campus, in case they need a safe place to stay in big storms. But there is so much space now at the hospital itself due to staffing shortages that workers will be able to sleep in the empty wards themselves, Hart said.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.