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012715i snowfallThe city has taken the rare step of delaying a City Council meeting, bumping it to 5:30 p.m. Thursday from the traditional Monday meeting night by a blizzard expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow.

City offices close at 6 p.m. Monday and will be closed Tuesday, Mayor David Maher said. The Hubway bike rental service won’t work after 7 p.m. Monday. The school district has also been canceling events because of the snow, and has canceled Tuesday classes. On Tuesday, they canceled Wednesday classes, and municipal buildings will be closed and programs and meetings canceled.

The snow is to begin late this evening and keep coming through Tuesday evening, and there’s a blizzard warning attached that could mean whiteout conditions. The MBTA announced it would be offering no transportation services Tuesday.

A snow emergency parking ban goes into effect at 4 p.m., making parking prohibited on streets with “No Parking During Snow Emergency” signs. Here is a list and map of prohibited streets; a map of off street parking for snow emergencies is here. (The ban will be reevaluated midday Wednesday.)

In addition, the public is encouraged to follow updates on Twitter at @CambMA and on Facebook at CambridgeMA.Gov. The city will be using the hash tag #CambMASnow on Twitter to help the public follow the conversation. Members of the public can also call (617) 349-4800 or (617) 349-4700 for information, said Ini Tomeu, the city’s public information officer.

City response

Late Monday, City Manager Richard C. Rossi announced the activation of an Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the city government’s response to the storm. “There is a lot of advanced planning and preparation that goes into the city’s response to a storm like we are experiencing,” Rossi said. “For the duration of this storm and the clean-up period afterwards, the city will be continually evaluating our snow operations, monitoring public safety issues across the city and communicating with City agencies, Nstar and the commonwealth. As we learn new information, we will adjust our response as needed.”

The expected snowfall was expected to present challenges, and Commissioner of Public Works Owen O’Riordan said works crews would be “working around the clock to keep major roads clear of snow and ice. Keeping these roads open are a critical public safety priority.” The department has a priority list of streets to clear from among the more than 125 miles of streets and 23 miles of public sidewalks, he said, and while every street is important to us, it may take some time before the crews can fully clear smaller streets.”

Update on Jan. 27, 2015: More than 130 pieces of apparatus worked to keep major roads clear of snow and ice starting late Monday,  O’Riordan said, and the city had no significant power outages or public safety problems. “We were fortunate last night that there were not any major incidents.  Since last night at 5 p.m., there have been only three motor vehicle accidents,” Rossi said. “Residents cooperated with the snow emergency parking ban, used caution during last night’s commute and adhered to the travel ban imposed by the governor. This type of cooperation helps the city focus on snow operations. The city only had to tow 65 vehicles citywide. A decade ago we would have towed hundreds of cars. I ask that residents use caution when going outside, watch for plows on the street, and take breaks often when shoveling snow.”

Council delay

While it’s rare for a council meeting to be delayed rather than canceled – which is itself rare – Monday’s meeting promised to be long: After two weeks off for a planning roundtable and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the agenda included 24 items from the city manager; 27 councillor’s policy orders, and another four that had been put aside by “charter right” use at a previous meeting; and 91 resolutions, which sometimes get explanation or other attention from councillors.

The meeting may well have stretched to midnight, including public comment for issues such as smoking limitations that would have likely been voted, releasing councillors, staff and residents into white, driving winds and accumulated snow.

Safety and shelter

The American Red Cross of Massachusetts has suggestions for residents faced with overnight blizzard conditions.

“It’s always easier to make a plan and gather resources before a storm hits, which is why the American Red Cross always encourages preparedness,” said Tim Pitoniak, the groups’ chief disaster officer. “Now is the time to get ready and prepare before the storm starts.”

The group suggests having at least a three-day supply of food and water, with one gallon of water per person per day recommended; a flashlights with batteries; a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and even more batteries; a first aid kit as well as medications and medical items specific to you – such as hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes or a cane; warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members; and ample alternate heating methods such as fireplaces or wood- or coal-burning stoves. It also suggests making sure phones and laptops are fully charged prior before the storm hits.

City officials called widespread power outages “a major concern during this storm,” and asked residents to report outages directly to Nstar at (800) 592-2000, while downed tree limbs and wires in the public way could be reported to (617) 349-3300. “Residents should not approach downed tree limbs and should use extreme caution to avoid downed wires as they could still be live,” city officials warned in a press release.

There’s a Red Cross Shelter Finder App here to find a place to stay if displaced, and the city opened its own emergency shelter for residents at in the War Memorial Recreation Center, attached to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. As of 11 p.m. Monday residents can enter the shelter at 1640 Cambridge St. Citizens with questions about the shelter should call the Emergency Communications Center at (617) 349-3300. (The shelter closed at 6 p.m. Tuesday.)