Scores of Masssachusetts communities canceled or ordered early closures for schools and some declared snow emergencies as a major storm bore down on the state that could bring 6 to 9 inches of snow to the Boston area.
The heaviest snowfall is expected to hit the interior of southeastern Massachusetts, where some areas will get over a foot of snow, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson said tonight.
A winter storm watch for Wednesday morning through late Wednesday night has been issued for Suffolk County, Norfolk County, southern Worcester County, Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and Islands, Rhode Island, and northern Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service.
Low pressure moving up the North Carolina coast is expected to push the heavy snow into the Bay State starting sporadically Wednesday morning and ending late Wednesday night. Simpson said the bulk of the snow will hit between 2 and 6 p.m., potentially making for a difficult commute.
‘‘The evening commute could be a serious problem if it’s not staggered,’’ Simpson said. ‘‘We’re looking at a classic nor’easter.’’
Simpson said he expects a barrage of heavy, wet snow. ‘‘You could definitely make snowballs out of it if you want to,’’ he said.
In Boston, schools were closed and a snow emergency and parking ban were announced. Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Thomas. M. Menino, said the mayor had been meeting with officials from the Police Department, the Department of Public Works, the School Committee, and other agencies to make sure everyone is on standby. Joyce said Menino strongly encouraged Boston workers to use public transportation Wednesday.
‘‘The evening commute is expected to be difficult at best,’’ Joyce said. ‘‘Taking public transportation will better allow our plows and equipment to maneuver and clear the path.’’
Other cities that declared snow emergencies and parking bans included Brockton and New Bedford.
‘‘During the afternoon, even, if you’ve got to go anywhere, give yourself plenty of time and take extra care,’’ National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham said, adding that the worst traveling conditions will be heading south and southeast on I-93, Route 24, and Route 3.
‘‘If you’re leaving Boston heading to the South Shore or to Rhode Island, plan on it taking quite a while,’’ he said.
Peter Judge, of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, encouraged residents and commuters to monitor the storm closely, since the amount and location of the snow is widely varied and may change.
‘‘We recommend anyone who can utilize public transportation to do so,’’ Judge said. ‘‘And we’d also recommend anyone who can to telecommute or stay off the roads entirely.’’
Judge said MEMA has been in close contact with the Department of Transportation, which is planning to have its snow removal equipment out in full force.
‘‘They will have the better part of 4,000 pieces of equipment ready to go tomorrow morning,’’ Judge said tonight.
Though blizzard conditions are not expected, wind gusts of 45 to 50 miles per hour will cause snow drifts and reduced visibility for those driving in coastal Plymouth County and the Cape and islands.
Simpson said the storm should taper off by late evening, and fairer weather should return Thursday, with some early morning clouds giving way to increasing sunshine in the afternoon with highs in the low 30s.
Snowfall is down this year with only 28.9 inches for the greater Boston area, compared with 54.1 at the same time last year, the National Weather Service said.
Officials were especially eager to showcase their preparedness for the onslaught of snow. In December of 2007, a snowstorm brought traffic in Boston to a halt resulting in hours-long delays that enraged commuters.
Judge said this time around there is enough salt and chemical residue from earlier storms this season that it should make a difference, unlike the infamous 2007 storm, which was one of the first of that year.
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