Meteorologists at the National Weather Service revised their forecast this afternoon for today's storm, saying there will be significantly less snowfall in the region than they had expected.
As a result, they downgraded the winter storm warning to an advisory in the Boston area, meaning they expect less than 6 inches of snowfall.
"What happened is that the storm got big enough that it wrapped warm air aloft, and it warmed the upper levels of the storm enough to give us rain instead of snow," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Taunton.
He said the rain is still likely to change to snow later in the afternoon. "This will happen as the storm absorbs more cold air," he said, noting the temperature in Boston will drop from a high of 36 degrees to a low of 27 degrees. "We expect it will continue to snow throughout the evening, until midnight."
The revised forecast is for 3 to 4 inches north of Boston and about 4 to 6 inches south of the city. He said more snow will fall farther south of the city, with as much as 10 inches still forecast for southern Rhode Island.
The new snowfall predictions came after public and private schools in scores of communities canceled classes or decided to close early , offering an unexpected holiday for school-weary kids. Non-emergency state workers were also sent home at noon, and legions of snowplow operators readied their gear in anticipation of a strong Northeaster.
Snow emergencies and parking bans were also declared in a number of communities. By late afternoon, some issued announcements that they were ending their emergencies, including Boston, which declared its was ending at 6 p.m. The Department of Conservation and Recreation also announced it was dropping its emergency declaration as of 6.
As the afternoon continued and school closing times passed and the rush hour began, heavy snow failed to make an appearance in Boston. Light flurries were falling at about 4:30 p.m. at the Globe offices in Dorchester.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation had been preparing for the storm over the past day or two, said Colin Durrant, an agency spokesman. About 1,100 out of more than 4,000 pieces of state and contractor snow and ice equipment are out on the roads already, Durrant said. Roads have been pretreated with salt and liquid calcium chloride to prevent snow buildup, said Adam Hurtubise, another spokesman.
The sun will poke through the clouds Thursday afternoon with a high of 35 degrees, and Friday’s skies will be partly sunny with highs in the mid-30s. Similar weather is expected to continue through the weekend.
On the beat
Columnist Adrian Walker says UMass Dartmouth is shaken after revelations that one of the Marathon bomb suspects was a student there. Read more