The ocean storm that has been lashing the state since early today will get down to business tonight, when temperatures drop and snow begins to accumulate. The National Weather Service says some communities could get more than a foot of snow and continues to warn of flooding along the coast during the high tide tonight and Friday morning.
Combined with strong winds, the heavy, wet snow could bring down trees and power lines, causing power outages. So far this afternoon, the state has been relatively unscathed. Shortly before 5 p.m., National Grid reported 584 customers had lost power, while NStar reported 158. But state officials offered tips for how to cope if outages do hit.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged people to be cautious and to use public transportation, if possible, as he warned of a slow Friday morning commute.
“The best way to help us clear the roads is to stay off them as much as possible,” he said. “I’m asking residents to use common sense and stay off the roads.”
While residents in the interior are expected to face outages, slippery roads, and back-breaking shoveling, residents along the coast will face an angry ocean, whipped up by high winds.
“Our main concern is the whole east coast of Massachusetts,” National Weather Service meteorologist Glenn Field said.
The forecasters warned of minor to moderate coastal flooding around high tide this evening, saying it would be a little less severe than this morning, when no major problems were reported. But the forecasters also said Friday morning’s high tide would be worse than this morning’s and probably comparable, or even a little worse, than the storm tide during the Februrary blizzard.
The winds this afternoon were blowing 15 to 25 miles per hour and gusting to 40 to 45 miles per hour in most locations, with gusts up to 50 to 60 miles per hour on the Cape and islands. And they are expected to continue into Friday, forecasters said.
The heaviest snow is expected to end in the mid-morning in western sections of the state and in the midafternoon across the coastal plain, the forecasters said.
Some communities received a decent helping of snow today, while others received very little. Weather spotters recorded 7 inches in Mansfield in the early afternoon and 6.8 in Foxborough in the late morning. But by 1 p.m., Boston had tallied less than an inch.
David Epstein, the meteorologist who blogs for boston.com, said that if temperatures were colder and the snow had been less wet and compact and melted less during the daylight hours, the state would have been looking at 14 to 20 inches of snow.
The National Weather Service fielded reports of flooding in Boston along Morrissey Boulevard, as well as in Salisbury, Essex, Marblehead, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Plymouth, Sandwich, Eastham, and Nantucket.
In Salisbury, emergency management officials issued a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday night for beachfront homes along Atlantic Avenue, Central Avenue, and North End Boulevard.
After the order was announced, one person sought shelter; officials are unsure how many people evacuated, if any at all. During this morning’s high tide, “significant erosion,” with water flowing around houses, occurred in multiple areas, including the evacuated streets, according to the weather service.
Friday morning’s high tide had town officials even more worried.
“Each tide is eroding more sand off the ocean front,” removing the natural barrier created by the beach, said Bob Cook, the town’s emergency management director.
In Plymouth, Aaron Wallace, emergency management director, also had a wary eye on Friday.
“The storm surge and the tides actually seem like they never really went out from today,” he said this afternoon. “They’re still pretty high and right now the sea state is building again in preparation for high tide tonight. If the storm surge and winds continue this evening, we’re expecting to see a bit more damage tomorrow morning.”
Wallace said about 60 homes along Taylor Avenue in the Manomet section of town were under close watch due to the damage they sustained in February’s blizzard.
“There are a handful of structures that had damage reported after the blizzard, so we’re following some of the more vulnerable homes,” he said.
In Scituate, Richard Judge, fire chief and emergency management director, said this morning that the water was surging over its normal bounds, but the effects were “not too bad.” Scituate officials had encouraged people to evacuate their homes and had closed schools in advance of the storm. The parking lot at Scituate Light flooded just after 7 a.m., according to a weather service report.
In Quincy, minimal seawater collected in flood-prone areas this morning, with only one major road closure.
State Police reported two weather-related crashes this morning on the Cape.
In Hull, a community on a spit of land that juts into the ocean, the recent storms, including the Feb. 8-9 blizzard, have worn on Town Manager Phil E. Lemnios.
“We’re sick of it,” Lemnios said. “We’re hoping for a nice, warm spring.”