Central, Western Massachusetts could see up to a foot of snow

A rare October snowstorm could dump to a foot of snow Saturday in areas of Central and Western Massachusetts, the National Weather Service warned today.

Two to six 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 4 to 5 inches, said Bill Simpson, a weather service meteorologist. Boston itself could get 1 to 3 inches.

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On Saturday, the area will start seeing cold rain around noon, Simpson said. Snow will form in the afternoon in higher interior areas, where the snowfall is expected to be highest. In Boston and elsewhere along the coast, rain won’t switch to snow until after sunset.

“The brunt of it will happen through the late evening,’’ Simpson said. After that, precipitation will taper off, and the storm will be “pretty much over with by Sunday morning.’’

Forecasters say October snowstorms are rare but not unheard-of. Could this storm be a recordbreaker?

The biggest October snow ever recorded in Boston was 1.1 inches on Oct. 29, 2005. So it wouldn’t take much snow in Boston to break the record. 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 high wind watch warning of winds gusting between 45 and 55 miles per hour in the area. On the Cape and islands, gusts could reach 60 miles per hour.

Today will be the calm before Saturday’s storm, sunny, with temperatures in the mid-40s. Skies tonight will be mostly clear as temperatures plummet, reaching the lower 20s to mid-30s, depending on the area.

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After the storm, on Sunday, conditions will be dry, and Boston will see increasing afternoon sunshine. Temperatures will reach the low to mid 40s.

Halloween will be similar to today: sunny and cold. Temperatures will reach around 50. Each day after that, Simpson said, there will be a gradual warming trend through Thursday as temperatures again reach normal for this time of year – around 57 degrees.

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 Massachusetts 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.

NStar is also prepared to serve their customers in the storm, and they will be activating an emergency response plan as of Thursday afternoon, said Mike Durand, spokesman for NStar.

NStar 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.

“Once the most heavily impacted areas of service territory are known, we’re able to relocate NStar crews from one part of our territory to another as necessary,’’ he said.

If forecasts continue to call for snow, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency plans to activate the State Emergency Operations Center around 6 p.m. Saturday.

“We’ll start at 6 p.m. and then go as long as needed,’’ said Peter Judge, spokesman for MEMA.

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