A punishing snowstorm, forecast to drop up to 14 inches of snow on Southeastern Massachusetts and up to 10 inches on Boston, prompted school closings and postponement of Governor Deval Patrick’s final State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday.
It was the first time in recent memory that the high-profile speech has been pushed back due to weather, veteran Beacon Hill lawmakers said.
Speaking during an afternoon press conference, Patrick said the forecast for the storm had worsened and that state employees were being sent home early. He urged private employers to follow suit.
“I’m worried about folks being on the road,” Patrick said. “It’s probably not a good idea to have people ski or snowshoe to the State of the Commonwealth.”
Meanwhile, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Taunton said the Cape and Southeastern Massachusetts would take the brunt of the storm. Parts of Southeastern Massachusetts will see 10 to 14 inches of snow and the Cape will receive 8 to 12 inches. A blizzard warning was issued for the coastal areas of the South Shore and the Cape.
Six to 10 inches of snow was expected in Boston, the Weather Service said. Up to a foot was predicted for parts of Norfolk County, and Springfield could see 5 inches. State officials said the storm should abate across much of the state by Wednesday morning or early afternoon.
Forecasters issued advisories for interior Massachusetts warning of wind chill temperatures that could drop as low as minus-20 degrees. Temperatures were expected late Wednesday to plummet to lows of about 3 degrees in the Boston area, 1 degree in Bristol County, and 6 in Barnstable.
Forecasters said initial flurries were expected to stick to the ground immediately due to the frigid temperatures, which could make commuting hazardous, even on salt-treated roads.
“The warmer it is, the better salt works on the roads,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.
Several communities — including Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Everett — declared snow emergencies Tuesday. Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston instituted a parking ban that took effect at 6 p.m. He also canceled school for Wednesday, as did officials in dozens of other cities and towns.
The state’s judicial system was affected, with the Massachusetts Trial Court canceling first-day jurors for Wednesday in most counties. Jurors in Berkshire and Hampshire counties are still requested to appear.
“Twelve days into my administration I did not want to be having a press conference about snow, but here we are,” Walsh told journalists in the lobby outside his office in City Hall.
“We’re ready. We have a good plan in place,” he said.
He said hundreds of trucks, plows, and other pieces of snow removal equipment were being deployed to city streets Tuesday evening.
“Today I’m asking for the public’s help,” Walsh said in a follow-up statement. “Please stay off the roads while our public works crews clear our streets, use public transportation whenever possible tonight and tomorrow, and look out for one another as temperatures drop this week.”
His remarks were echoed by Frank DePaola, the state highway administrator, during an afternoon briefing at the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance depot in Milton.
DePaola said crews would work through the night and early morning to clear state highways, which he urged people to avoid if possible.
“We expect that tomorrow morning’s commute will be very difficult,” DePaola said. “And we recommend that if people can avoid travel, please do so.”
DePaola said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be treating the train tracks through the night in an effort to run a normal schedule Wednesday morning. But, he cautioned, “we do expect there could be some service problems,” since the weather will adversely affect the transit system’s aging equipment.
He urged T riders to check the agency’s website for updates or watch for service alerts via e-mail or text message if they are signed up to receive them.
Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the snowy conditions contributed to a collision between a car and Red Line trolley blocks away from the Mattapan MBTA stop, but no one was hurt, the Milton Fire Department said.
DePaola added that the rough start to the winter season has taken a financial toll on the Transportation Department, with the agency already spending more than $38 million on snow removal, close to its total allotted budget for the task.
He said transportation officials may have to ask the state Legislature for more funds to get through the rest of the season.
A spokeswoman for the Transportation Department said the state would have 4,000 pieces of equipment out fighting the storm.
Elsewhere, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan International Airport, warned that the storm had already prompted flight cancellations Tuesday and said delays were likely.
Airport officials urged travelers to check with their airlines before heading there.
“Logan Airport is preparing for a winter weather event Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning Jan. 22,” Massport said to its website.
“Crews will be working throughout the storm to keep the airfield open, unless conditions make snow removal operations unsafe. Airlines are canceling flights in advance of the storm and delays are likely.”
Blustery wind gusts could be as high as 38 miles per hour overnight, the Weather Service said, causing blowing snow and decreased visibility.
But the snow will also be light because of the frigid temperatures, meaning it will at least be easier to plow.
“This snow will be light and fluffy, because the colder the snow, the higher snow-to-water ratios,” said Simpson, the Weather Service meteorologist.