State officials braced Wednesday for a long battle to keep roads clear as the first nor’easter of 2014 approached the region, expected to bring 10 to 14 inches of snow, moderate coastal flooding, and near-blizzard conditions between Thursday evening and Friday afternoon.
Frank DePaola, highway administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said that about 400 salt trucks would begin pretreating roads at about midnight Wednesday, and snowplows would run “throughout the storm, until it’s over and cleaned up.”
“Hopefully, [Thursday] will be a reasonable day for commuting,” DePaola said. “I think Friday morning is going to be the biggest challenge.”
DePaola said the effort could cost $8 million to $10 million.
“This is probably going to be a day and a half, and it’s going to be pretty much the entire state, so it’s going to be expensive,” he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared a snow emergency and parking ban, beginning Thursday at noon, and said the city’s public schools would not reopen as scheduled on Friday.
Other public school districts announcing closings for Thursday and Friday included those in Revere, Salem, Beverly, and Braintree.
Kevin Cadima, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said snowfall would begin slowly Thursday but become heavier after dark.
“We’re expecting mostly light snow during the day,” he said. “It really won’t pick up until Thursday night.”
Cadima said winds are expected to increase to 25 to 30 miles per hour Thursday afternoon and peak Friday morning, with gusts as high as 40 miles per hour.
The heaviest snowfall will occur Thursday evening through Friday morning, dropping 10 to 14 inches of snow across the region, he said.
Cadima said the storm will coincide with the monthly astronomical high tide to create a flooding danger in coastal areas during high tides at midday and late Thursday night, as well as Friday midday.
“Those three are expecting minor to moderate coastal flooding, but the Friday one there could be major flooding, especially through coastal Plymouth County and Cape Cod,” he said.
The Weather Service has issued a coastal flood advisory for midday Thursday, he said, and may issue additional advisories as the storm develops.
As the storm system leaves the region Friday morning, temperatures should drop to near 10 degrees in Boston and to single digits west of the city, he said.
Officials in coastal towns braced Wednesday for the possible flooding, with several planning emergency meetings for Thursday morning.
Revere’s mayor, Daniel Rizzo, said he would lead a meeting at 10 a.m. but had already canceled school for Thursday and Friday and imposed a parking ban that will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“The goal here is obviously to get the cars off the roads so the snowplows can get out and do their jobs,” Rizzo said. “As long as the storm doesn’t stall, we’re going to be in very good shape.”
In Hull, emergency managment officials were set to meet at 8 a.m., and the Fire Department planned to open a station at the far end of the peninsula, which can become separated from the rest of town by high tides, Captain William Souza said.
Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said local officials would meet at 9 a.m. and were taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We have noticed that the forecast has changed substantially in the last 48 hours, and so we will wait until tomorrow until the storm is actually here to decide anything further,” she said Wednesday evening.
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said it had conducted conference calls with hundreds of local officials and with state and federal agencies to prepare for the storm.
He said the snow is expected to be light and fluffy, so it should not cause widespread power outages, but MEMA is concerned about plummeting temperatures and high tides.
He said the agency is prepared to open emergency shelters in the event of coastal flooding and has positioned emergency equipment on the North Shore, South Shore, and Cape Cod.