The first nor’easter of 2014, packing frigid temperatures, high winds, and nearly two feet of snow in some areas, walloped the region Thursday and threatened to generate dangerous high tides, prompting requests for voluntary evacuations.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for eastern Essex County, Plymouth County, and Cape Cod and placed the rest of the state under a winter storm warning through the night and into midmorning Friday, when the snow is expected to slow.
The threat of heavy snowfall and wind-chill temperatures that could dip to 30 below zero prompted Governor Deval Patrick to announce that state offices will remain closed Friday. He encouraged private businesses to follow suit.
Patrick, speaking at the state’s emergency management headquarters in Framingham, did not issue an explicit driving ban, but urged people to continue to stay off the roads.
“Minimize outside activities,” Patrick said. “This is pretty, in some respects; it’s nice to look at. But these temperatures are very, very dangerous.”
That bite, though brutal, might be temporary. The National Weather Service said temperatures could soar to nearly 50 degrees Monday.
On Thursday night, State Police reported crashes in a number of communities, including seven in Holden alone. Troopers said that at least four tractor-trailers had jacknifed on highways during the day and evening in Littleton, Worcester, Westfield, and Longmeadow. But by late Thursday, no fatal accidents had been reported.
“Stay home if you can,” Trooper Dustin Fitch, a State Police spokesman, said on his Twitter feed. “The roads are wicked slippery.”
Snow accumulations were highest Thursday night in Essex County, where Boxford was reporting 21 inches at about 11 p.m. and Topsfield had 19.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Alan Dunham, a Weather Service meteorologist, said these totals, much higher than the single-digit accumulations in other parts of the state, were due to a band of moisture that came off the ocean during the day and caused heavier snowfall. South of Boston, Dunham said, there were smaller flakes and less accumulation.
Shortly before midnight, Dunham called the storm a nor’easter, which he described as “a low-pressure system that moves up the coast and passes southeast of Nantucket and Cape Cod, giving us winds from the northeast.”
Officials had flooding concerns in coastal communities including Duxbury and Scituate, where residents in certain areas were asked to voluntarily evacuate in anticipation of dangerous high tides at midnight and noon Friday.
Scituate opened a shelter at the high school there, but only a few residents had sought refuge.
In an advisory later Thursday night, town officials in Scituate said that those who had not yet left their homes should stay put after 9 p.m.
Most in Scituate appeared to heed the warning against late night travel, with streets all but empty, apart from slowplows. Waves crashed against the sea wall at Scituate Harbor, though the water had not yet risen above the barrier late Thursday.
In Duxbury, Fire Captain Robert Tripp said that there had been minor flooding during the midday high tide in an area that traces a narrow peninsula bordering Duxbury Bay and that fire crews were remaining on the coast for the midnight high tide to watch for flooding.
Richard Davey, the state transportation secretary, said that MBTA trains and buses will run Friday, but riders should check the MBTA website for service updates.
The Mattapan trolley line in Boston was suspended Thursday night with alternative shuttle buses available until further notice.
The T also reported minor delays and route changes on other subway and bus lines.
Most schools, colleges, and universities were closed Thursday and are expected to remain closed Friday.
The governor also said he has activated the National Guard to support state and local storm response efforts, but he stopped short of declaring a state of emergency. “Temperatures will be extreme,’’ Patrick said, adding that some areas could see windchills drop as low as 30 below zero.
Dunham said late Thursday that winds in the Boston area were gusting up to 32 miles per hour, with 37-mile-per-hour winds recorded in Milton. Winds were higher on Cape Cod and the islands, Dunham said, with 44-mile-per-hour gusts measured in Chatham and 48-mile-per-hour bursts on Nantucket.
At Logan Airport, airlines canceled hundreds of flights and were not expected to resume full schedules until midmorning Friday at the earliest. Massport also advised travelers to check with their airlines before heading to the airport.
Officials said they did not expect major power outages because the snow is not heavy, but said they will monitor utility companies’ response. Only scattered outages were reported by major Eastern Massachusetts utilities late Thursday night.
The Department of Transportation reported that more than 3,300 crews were treating roads statewide throughout the night.
Major General L. Scott Rice, the head of the Massachusetts National Guard, said that up to 400 Guard members were being called up to conduct well-being checks and possible evacuations.
Before the deep freeze set in over Boston late Thursday, pedestrians struggled to navigate the slushy conditions. One dog walker in South Boston stayed positive as he was being led by three large pooches.
“The dogs love it, and I love it,” said Jeff Hunter of Salem. “Parking and driving stink, but snow’s the greatest. I’d rather walk in winter than a 90-degree day. It’s much more fun.”
James Horne said customers at Healey Square General Store in Southie were stocking up on snow-day staples. “Caffeine and cigarettes,” he said. “That’s what people want in a storm.”
Billy Baker, Martine Powers, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Catalina Gaitan and Jennifer Smith contributed to this report.