A nor'easter sweeping across the state today could drop up to a foot of snow in some areas, beginning with an inch in the Boston area during the evening commute, National Weather Service forecasters said today.
Forecasters said the snow will fall through the night before ending from west to east on Thursday morning.
Meteorologist Glenn Field said the heaviest snow was expected to fall between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., giving plowing crews some time to work on the roads before the morning rush hour. Sunshine could peek out by mid-morning.
Forecasters issued a number of winter storm watches and warnings, saying that roads may become slippery and that the heavy wet snow may bring down tree limbs and power wires.A weather service forecast map showed the heaviest amounts falling in Southeastern Massachusetts, in the area including Fall River and New Bedford. The amounts generally taper off heading north and west. Nantucket and parts of the Cape are expected to see very little snow. But Martha's Vineyard is predicted to get more than 9 inches. Boston could get more than 7 inches, the map indicates.
Highs today are expected to range from the upper 20s over northwest sections of the state to the mid-30s over Cape Cod. On Thursday, sunshine will increase in the afternoon, and highs will range from the upper 20s in Western Massachusetts to the lower 30s along the coast
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said officials are concerned about the moisture content of the coming snowfall. If it's heavy and wet, it could cause outages, he said. Field said forecasters expected wind gusts exceeding 40 knots on the Cape and islands, which could compound the problem.
As flakes began to tumble from the sky this afternoon, Boston and a number of other communities, including Medford, Everett, and Arlington, declared snow emergencies, effective this evening.
Massachusetts Highway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky said crews have been pretreating the roads and plows will take over once the snow begins to fall in earnest. The department has more than 4,000 pieces of equipment available, depending on how bad the storm is.
She said forecasts called for the snow to end a couple of hours before the Thursday commute and the department's goal will be to clear the roads for the commute. "We're going to take that time to intensively plow, to clear the roads," she said.
She advised people to be aware of road and weather conditions before they start out for work and to make sure they match their speeds to road conditions. She also asked people to be careful of workers out plowing and working on the roads.
A heavy band of snow running ahead of the storm has already dumped about 4 inches in three hours in New York City and was expected to pass through the southern part of the state this afternoon between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., forecasters said.
Forecasters also issued a coastal flood watch, saying that minor to low-end moderate coastal flooding is possible during the high tide early Thursday. As the storm passes southeast of Nantucket, northeast winds will whip up seas, causing a 2- to 2½-foot storm surge. Basements and coastal roads may flood, and beach erosion is possible, forecasters said.
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