NORTHAMPTON — Winter is hanging on for dear life.
As of late Monday, National Weather Service forecasters were calling for 16 to 22 inches of snow to hit western Massachusetts on Tuesday. They also did away with an earlier winter storm warning, upgrading the threat to a blizzard warning in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Snow is likely to start between 5 and 7 a.m., the agency said, falling at a rate of 2 to 4 inches an hour at times.
“This will make travel very hazardous or impossible,” read a warning from the weather service.
The 4 p.m. models showed that the eastern parts of Hampshire and Hampden counties would most likely see about 17 inches of snow. The western parts, and most of Franklin County, would see more than 20 inches, the weather service predicted.
Authorities urged people to stay off the roads if possible. They also told residents to expect power outages, as heavy winds could damage the grid. In Hampshire County, wind speeds could increase through the afternoon and gusts could reach 38 mph, the agency said.
For Tuesday night, the agency predicted more snow, mainly before 11 p.m., with a low of 24 degrees. For Wednesday, there was a 30 percent chance of precipitation, with more snow possible.
Daily highs are expected to remain below freezing for the Hampshire County area until Friday, when the high is predicted to be 35.
That would spell ideal ice conditions, said Paul Czapienski, owner of Foster Farrar Co. True Value Hardware on King Street.
He said he saw a small uptick in salt sales because of the predicted ice — as well as increased snowblower and shovel sales.
“Most people, at this point in the season,” he said, “they should be pretty much prepared.”
Gov. Charlie Baker, in a news release, urged caution. He said the heavy snow might make for white-out conditions.
“We are actively monitoring the winter storm expected to impact much of Massachusetts tomorrow with the potential for up to 18 inches of quickly falling snow, high winds and minor to moderate coastal flooding,” Baker said. “Extremely fast snowfall rates will create dangerous roadway conditions, and we urge everyone to be prepared to stay off the roads, take public transit if necessary and work from home if possible. We will continue to monitor the forecast and provide updates as the storm approaches.” Closings
School districts were calling off class Monday afternoon. As of 4 p.m. Monday, the Northampton, Hatfield, Hadley and Granby public school districts had announced they would be closed Tuesday.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst also announced it would be closed Tuesday.
In Amherst, Guilford Mooring, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, said his team was busy preparing for the storm. He said crews will come in at 4 a.m. Tuesday to pre-treat roads and then start plowing at about 6 or 7 a.m.
“If we get what they say,” he said, “it’ll probably be up there as biggest storm of the season.”
He said the department had $280,000 budgeted for snow and ice this year, but that the department was already about $50,000 over budget.
National Weather Service meteorologist William Babcock said Sunday that through Saturday night, the agency’s Windsor Locks, Connecticut, monitoring station had logged 45 inches of snow this winter — about 9½ inches above normal.
At the Stop & Shop on King Street in Northampton, some shoppers were prepping for the impending weather and others were going about their normal routines at about 4 p.m.
Nathan Clifford, 32, of Northampton, was gathering ingredients for a tray of lasagna to eat over the next few days.
He said to be “pre-emptive” he expects lots of people to show up and stock up before the storm. Putting off trips to the store until after rough weather hits puts yourself and others at risk, he said.
“You don’t want anything bad to happen,” he said.
His friend, Brady Sears, 31, was stocking up on groceries — and beer.
“I’m coming out to get some stuff before it hits,” he said.
Catherine McCune, 50, was set on supplies for the storm but was picking up some spare groceries anyway.
“I was afraid it would be crowded but glad it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” she said of the less-than-apocalyptic crowd at the store.