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State could see up to foot of snow

By Martin Finucane, Jaime Lutz and Amanda Cedrone
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondents / October 29, 2011

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A rare October snowstorm could dump up to a foot of snow today in western parts of the state and in Central Massachusetts toward the New Hampshire border, the National Weather Service warned yesterday.

Two to 6 inches of snow are expected closer to the coast, the weather service said.

In addition to weighing down tree limbs and power lines with heavy, wet snow, the storm will also rake the state with strong winds and pound the coast with moderate flooding, forecasters warned.

Communities as close to Boston as Stow and Littleton could get up to 6 inches. Boston itself could get 1 to 3 inches. Weather officials have the “lowest confidence’’ in forecasting the precipitation in the Boston area, however, as today’s temperatures are crucial in determining the amount of snow.

The Boston area will start seeing cold rain at about 4 p.m. today, but it is not expected to change to snow until about midnight, said Joe Dellicarpini, a Weather Service meteorologist. Early risers may see snowflakes tomorrow morning, as snowfall is expected through about 8 a.m.

Snow is expected to form in the afternoon in higher interior areas of Central and Western Massachusetts between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., with the heaviest snowfall expected just in time for dinner. The snow should be clear of the area at about 5 a.m. tomorrow.

Forecasters say this storm has potential to be a record-breaker. The biggest October snow ever recorded in Boston was 1.1 inches on Oct. 29, 2005. The biggest October snow in Worcester was 7.5 inches on Oct. 10, 1979, the weather service said.

In Eastern Massachusetts, the snow will be teamed with strong winds, forecasters said. They issued a warning of winds gusting between 45 and 55 miles per hour in and around Boston. On the Cape and islands, gusts could reach 60 miles per hour.

After the storm moves out early tomorrow, conditions will be dry, and Boston will see increasing sunshine. Temperatures will reach the low to mid-40s.

Halloween will be similar to yesterday: sunny and cold. Temperatures will reach around 50. Each day after that, said meteorologist Bill Simpson, there will be a gradual warming trend through Thursday.

Officials around the state are preparing for the snow.

“All of our district highway directors are preparing their staff,’’ said Cyndi Roy, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. “The staff is inspecting equipment to make sure it’s ready to go.’’

The DOT has also enlisted contractors to help out with the salting, sanding, and plowing.

She added that the MBTA and Massport both have plans ready for the snow and ice.

National Grid is preparing for potential outages, with crews scheduled to work, and additional contract crews reserved if response is needed to hard-hit areas, according to spokeswoman Debbie Drew. NStar will be activating an emergency response plan this afternoon, said Mike Durand, a spokesman.

The company will open regional service centers as storm response headquarters, add extra line crews and support staff, and also add staff to the customer call center, he said.

Globe correspondent Taylor M. Miles contributed to this report. Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@globe.com.