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Snowfall sets scene for New Year’s party

Shoppers in Downtown Crossing frolicked in the snow that fell Saturday evening. The region may see up to a foot.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Shoppers in Downtown Crossing frolicked in the snow that fell Saturday evening. The region may see up to a foot.

This weekend’s wintry blast, which was expected to bring up to a foot of snow to some areas, had First Night ice sculptor Donald Chapelle feeling downright cheery Saturday.

“Sunlight is what kills it, not this kind of weather,” said the veteran sculptor, taking a break from carving a coral reef scene as snow began to fall outside the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon. Organizers of the annual New Year’s Eve celebration said the storm would not affect preparations for the event, which they expect will draw 1 million people.

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Chapelle said his sculpture would easily weather the storm, although he was considering waiting until its expected end Sunday morning before carefully chiseling the final details.

A Littleton couple who stopped to admire the work of Chapelle and his crew had a different view. Dennis and Leslie Farr, 55 and 41, plan to skip trekking through the snow to this year’s festivities in favor of a night at home with champagne and seafood paella.

Still, they enjoyed seeing the sculpting process.

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“Before the craziness of New Year’s happens, we get to see the pre-show,” Leslie Farr said.

Snow that began falling in the Berkshires on Saturday morning reached Boston by 3 p.m. Some regions, particularly inland parts of southeast Massachusetts, were expected to get up to a foot of snow.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared a snow emergency in Boston, triggering street parking bans across the city that sent residents scrambling.

Rene Fielding, director of Boston’s Office of Emergency Management, warned at a press conference that temperatures would likely remain below freezing for a week or more, leaving snow on the ground.

The storm came as the city prepares for its popular First Night celebration Monday.

Menino, who was recently released from a months-long hospital stay, will not participate in any public First Night activities, said a spokeswoman, Emilee Ellison. Instead, he will gather with friends and family at the Parkman House, a city-owned residence on Beacon Hill where the mayor is staying while he recovers.

In Boston, the snow changed to rain and then back to snow Saturday evening, which, along with freezing temperatures overnight, could make for icy roads Sunday.

The snow is likely to remain on the ground through the holiday period, said a National Weather Service meteorologist, Alan Dunham, as high temperatures on Sunday and Monday will barely inch above the freezing point before plummeting into the teens at night.

New Year’s Eve will be chilly and overcast, Dunham said. A flurry or two may come that night, but no significant precipitation is expected.

As of Saturday evening, police said no major damage had been reported on Plum Island, where a storm surge Thursday washed away a protective dune and damaged the foundations of four homes. Forecasters had said they did not expect coastal flooding, as the storm’s winds were blowing from west to east, out to sea.

State Department of Transportation crews and contractors were out in force as the storm arrived Saturday, pretreating major arteries with sand and de-icer and clearing snow, said a spokesman, ­Michael Verseckes.

About 4,000 plows, sanders, and de-icing trucks were available to keep roads open, he said.

While officials do not expect weather-related traffic snarls, the Sunday night closure of the Sumner Tunnel will require rerouting drivers through the Ted Williams Tunnel or over the Tobin Bridge. The tunnel is being closed while workers inspect its wall panels after a similar panel in the Callahan Tunnel crashed onto the road last week.

A First Night spokeswoman, Joyce Linehan, said organizers do not expect any problems, despite the lingering snow.

Despite organizers’ assurances, Jenkin Cagwin and his wife, Aline, both 27 and of Brighton, also said they would skip First Night, ringing in the new year at a friend’s house instead. “We’re avoiding the Boston social scene this year, partially because of the weather,” Jenkin Cagwin said.

It was a visitor from abroad who proved most willing to brave the New England elements.

Jacquie McInroy, 52, of London said she was in Boston for the first time on a week-long vacation. She and her husband plan to spend New Year’s on Boston Common.

“I just hope we don’t get snowed in,” she said.

For Chapelle, the wintry weather provides perfect conditions — a far cry from some of the challenging weather he has seen in his 26 years of ice sculpting for First Night.

“One day it was like having a vacation in the Red Sea,” Chapelle said. “At some point, you have to leave things in God’s hands.”

Globe Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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