Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Take it slow. That's the advice today from police and highway officials, who are urging people to drive carefully on the way home from work this afternoon as a storm continues to bring a wintry mix of precipitation to the state.
The storm that began this morning is expected to dump a mixture of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and rain on the state by the time it winds up by midnight tonight.
The National Weather Service says up to 4 inches of snow are expected south of the Massachusetts Turnpike, while up to 10 inches are expected to fall north of the Turnpike. By 1 p.m., 7 inches or more had been reported in the central Massachusetts towns of Shrewsbury, Grafton, and Ayer. About 2 inches were recorded at Logan International Airport in Boston.
The snow is expected to change over to sleet and freezing rain and then rain in coastal areas -- as it did by early afternoon in Boston. But northwest of Route 128 freezing rain is expected to fall through the afternoon -- and a quarter to a half inch of ice is expected to accumulate.
"The commute is going to take at least two to three times what you're normally used to," said Sergeant Matthew Murray, a State Police spokesman. He advised people to leave a larger than usual distance between themselves and the car in front of them.
In an update shortly after 3 p.m., State Police described problems on the roads across the state, including poor conditions on Interstate 495 and Route 2 and the speed limit reduced to 40 miles per hour the entire length of the Turnpike.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino also warned of "flash freezing" tonight, as temperatures drop, of pooled water and untreated surfaces.
In addition to icing roads, the freezing rain could bring down tree limbs and power lines. Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge said there were less than 2,000 power outages reported early this afternoon, but that number could grow as more freezing rain falls. Officials are hoping today's storm won't be a major ice storm like the one that devastated sections of Central Massachusetts in 2008.
In areas where the snow turns to rain, some urban and poor drainage areas could also see flooding. "With snow and ice clogging the storm drains there is a lot of standing water," said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham. "There's not a lot of place for the rain to go, especially on secondary roads."
The morning commute was no prize, either. State Police said hundreds of fender benders and spinouts were reported, including two tractor-trailer jackknife incidents. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries reported through the midafternoon.
Judge said the arrival of the storm in force during rush hour had made it difficult for some trucks to plow because they were stuck in traffic. "They're sitting in line just like everybody else," he said.
State Highway Administrator Luisa Paiewonsky said her department had started spreading anti-icing materials on the roads starting at 1 a.m. The snow turned out to be heavier than originally forecast and the number of plows and spreaders was increased. More than 2,500 plows and spreaders were out on the road by early afternoon, she said.
"We're still advising people to slow it down during the afternoon commute in response to the weather conditions," she said.
"We've been out there since late last night and we'll be there through late this evening and do overnight work if necessary," she said. "We're not going to stop until the job is done."
Traffic updates can be found here.
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