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Boston joins other communities in declaring snow emergency as region braces for major storm

Boston has joined a growing list of cities and towns across New England cancelling schools and issuing parking bans as the region braces itself for the first Nor’easter of 2014, expected to bring 10 to 14 inches of snow, moderate coastal flooding, and near-blizzard conditions between this evening and Friday afternoon.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared a snow emergency and parking ban beginning today at noon and declared that Boston Public Schools would not re-open as scheduled on Friday. In a statement announcing the precautions, Menino said city business would go an as usual today.

The leading edge of the snow storm was expected to reach the region after midnight, as temperatures dropped into the teens and flurries appeared north of the Massachusetts Turnpike. “It will be snowing lightly, but there won’t be any accumulation,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham.

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Between 2 and 4 inches are predicted to fall between morning and afternoon today, though areas south of the turnpike should only expect a few flurries. Twenty-mile-per hour winds are expected in the afternoon, increasing to as high as 37 miles per hour in the evening as the temperature drops to 9 degrees.

The most significant snowfall will occur this evening through Friday afternoon, dropping 10 to 14 inches of snow across the region, Dunham said.

Strong winds could cause considerable drifting of snow and near blizzard conditions along the eastern coast.

“With north winds between twenty to forty miles per hour, visibility will be very bad and there will be considerable drifting,” said Dunham. Snowfall rates at 1 to 2 inches per hour are possible tonight into Friday, with wind gusts between 15 and 25 miles per hour and up to 45 miles per hour along the coast, according to the National Weather Service.

Among the public school districts announcing closures today and Friday due to the approaching storm were Salem, Beverly, and Braintree public schools. Winthrop’s Department of Public Works also requested that residents remove their vehicles from the road by this morning in case plow trucks need to be dispatched.

A Coastal Flood Watch was issued for the three high tide cycles between today and Friday along the eastern Massachusetts coastline, with a slight risk of major coastal flooding in Sandwich and Nantucket, forecasters said.

All vulnerable areas of the eastern shoreline are at risk of some beach erosion due to large waves and high water levels on Friday, with Plymouth County coast, the north and outer side of the Cape, and the eastern side of Nantucket all facing the most significant damage, the weather service said.

Friday morning will have more snow and temperatures in the low teens, with snowfall tapering off in the afternoon. “The biggest thing is going to be travel Friday morning, which will be hazardous at best,” said Dunham.

As the storm system leaves the region, temperatures will start to plummet below zero. “Right now we’re going for a low of 5 below zero to zero, with wind chills as low as negative 20 degrees,” said Dunham.

This prolonged cold could lead to frozen water pipes and fire sprinkler systems, especially in buildings where the heat has been turned down to conserve energy during the holidays, public safety officials warned.

Friday night will be mostly clear, with a low of negative 3 degrees. That temperature should warm up slightly on Saturday, with highs in the mid teens to low 20s.

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