The first of two back-to-back winter storms dumped up to 10 inches of fluffy snow on Massachusetts today, causing spinouts and fender benders, slowing morning commutes to a crawl, and forcing hundreds of schools around the state to send children home early.
National Weather Service forecasters warned of slippery road conditions persisting until the evening commute. And with the second storm arriving early Wednesday, they predicted a "messy" morning commute, too.
Areas in Western and Central Massachusetts were included among the hardest hit. The highest snowfall reported in the state was 10.3 inches in Chicopee by midafternoon. In Littleton, 8.5 inches were reported, and 8 inches were reported in Clinton and Holden. At 2 p.m., the weather service recorded 6.1 inches in Winthrop, adjacent to Boston.
Late this afternoon, the service's radar showed the storm clear of Western and Central Massachusetts and passing through Eastern Massachusetts on its way to the sea.
State Police reported that there had been numerous minor crashes, but no serious injuries. They urged people to stay off the roads, if at all possible.
At Logan International Airport, up to 50 percent of flights are expected to be canceled today as weather problems at airports that serve such cities as Dallas, Chicago, and New York set off ripple effects that are being felt in Boston, aviation direction Edward Freni said shortly after noon; on a typical day, there are about a thousand flights in and out of the airport.
“We are open,’’ said airport spokesman Phil Orlandella. “The problem is down-line with other airports." Orlandella urged travelers to contact their airlines for information about fare changes and cancellations before heading to East Boston.
Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways, the biggest carrier at Logan, said it planned to cease operations at Logan after 9 p.m. tonight and added that it plans to resume operations, weather permitting, on Thursday at 10 a.m.
The MBTA reported numerous problems on the commuter rail, bus lines, and some subway lines. In the late afternoon, its website was balky and slow in responding. The MBTA's Twitter feed said the site had seen "a traffic spike" and officials were moving to address the issue. Officials offered an alternate site. The website was back in normal operation by the evening.
After a brief break, the second snowstorm is expected to arrive in the early morning hours of Wednesday. Flakes will fall moderately to heavily during the morning rush hour, resulting in "very hazardous travel conditions," the weather service said. In the Boston area and in the southern half of the state, the storm is expected to dump another 5 to 8 inches of snow, along with one- to two-tenths of an inch of ice.
In the northern tier of the state, another 7 to 12 inches of snow is expected, with less than one-tenth of an inch of ice. The snow is expected to change into sleet and freezing rain by Wednesday afternoon but to change back to light snow before ending that night. In Southeastern Massachusetts, which mostly dodged the bullet of the storm, only 2 to 4 more inches are expected.
A snowfall prediction map issued by the weather service showed totals for the two storms ranging up to 17.8 inches across the northern edge of the state, slightly down from the 21 inches the service had predicted on Monday. Boston is expected to get slightly more than a foot. Most of the state was expected to get at least a foot, with amounts tapering away to the southeast, where the outer Cape was expected to get less than 3 inches and Nantucket just 0.4 inch.
Forecasters warned that, in addition to problems on the roads, the weight of more snow could bring down weakened roofs, tree limbs, and power lines.
The Boston school system was among those that let students go early, dismissing high schoolers at 1:15 p.m., though other students were to be released at regular times. Boston also joined scores of other school systems that said they were canceling school on Wednesday.
Traffic remained slow this afternoon along roads around Boston. State Police lowered the speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike to 40 miles per hour from Boston to the New York border. Tandem truck units and propane tankers are banned, State Police said.
A warehouse roof collapsed on Lowland Street in Holliston, but all the employees got out safely. An unoccupied lumber storage building in East Longmeadow also collapsed, a dispatcher said.
Federal court officials announced that all their facilities, in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, would be closed on Wednesday because of the storm.
Boaters are also being warned that gale force winds could arrive along the entire Massachusetts coast south to Rhode Island and eastward some 25 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
The weather service has posted a gale watch that begins at 5 p.m. today and will remain in effect until Wednesday night. Seas could reach 10 feet high and winds could top 35 knots Wednesday night, the weather service is warning.
Chris Reidy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Suzanne Kreiter / Globe Staff
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