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Powerful blizzard hits Cape Cod and the islands

A blinding blizzard roared through Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket today. But the storm was expected to have little impact elsewhere in Massachusetts.

Six to 12 inches of snow were expected to fall on the Cape and islands, driven by powerful wind gusts. By midday, the National Weather Service had fielded reports of 9½ inches of snow on Nantucket and 6 inches in the Cape Cod town of Harwich.

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Fierce winds drove the snow. Gusts reached more than 80 miles per hour — higher than hurricane force — on Nantucket, and kicked up into the 60s and 70s on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard.

By mid-morning, the weather service said the storm was officially a blizzard, with three hours of sustained winds greater than 35 miles per hour and visibility of a quarter-mile or less recorded in the Cape Cod towns of Chatham, Hyannis, and Falmouth, and on Nantucket.

“It looks like the snow is coming down sideways,” said George White, a fire department lieutenant in Wellfleet, on the Cape. “Residents should stay home and stay off the roads. The roads are bad. We have snowplows out now.”

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White said Wellfleet officials were hoping that the wintry storm, which arrived after the official beginning of spring, would be the last.

“We sure hope so,” White said. “This is, like, the 13th or 14th storm this year, which is a lot for us.”

As of noon, approximately 7,800 power outages had been reported, mostly on the Cape and islands, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said.

The good news is that the storm “should die down by midday,” said weather service meteorologist Charlie Foley.

The amount of snowfall is expected to decrease sharply just over the Cape Cod Canal. In Boston, the forecasters are calling for a dusting to an inch or two at most. And to the north and west few, if any, flakes are expected, though strong winds will blow.

Coastal flooding was also a concern during the morning’s high tide, between 8 and 9 a.m.

The storm, which satellite imagery showed had numerous lightning strikes at its center, was expected to pass 200 miles southeast of the Nantucket this morning. The weather service said it was an impressive storm, but it was passing too far out in the ocean to have a widespread impact.

On Nantucket, officials reported whiteout conditions and said numerous vehicles had been driven into snowbanks.

As the high tides rolled in, officials said they were seeing flooding in areas that are usually inundated during stormy weather.

With the storm knocking out people’s power, officials planned to open a warming center at Nantucket High School, but they also said National Grid had been moving quickly to restore service and the number of people affected was steadily declining.

No injuries have been reported, and all the people who were in snowbound vehicles are out of them, said Dave Fronzuto, the island’s emergency management coordinator.

“We’ve got some flooding, but it’s nothing that we normally don’t have,’’ Fronzuto said. “Other than that, we are doing OK.’’

In the Cape Cod town of Sandwich, Christine Lawrence, a fire dispatcher, said, “We haven’t gone out too much yet, but because of the winds we’re expected to, with the wires and the trees. But so far, so good. It helps that there aren’t many people on the roads. Most people stayed home today.”

In the Cape town of Chatham, a 200-year-old beach house under renovation collapsed after heavy winds blew it off its foundation, officials said.

“It’s right across from the beach, and it looks like the gusts of wind twisted it sideways and then it started to pancake,” said Chatham Fire Department Deputy Chief Peter Connick.

The single-story historic home on Main Street had been elevated on blocks as it underwent renovation, Connick said. No injuries were reported.

All courthouses on the Cape and islands were closed due to concerns about the “safety of court users and court staff,’’ the state Trial Court announced this morning.

The Steamship Authority suspended ferry service from the Cape to the islands due to the rough weather, saying it would resume as soon as conditions improve.

In Boston, the winds should gust to 50 miles per hour through this evening. High temperatures will crest near 35 degrees. Flurries should peter out by late morning, giving way to mostly cloudy skies. Low temperatures should plunge to 20 degrees overnight.

The weather will be more spring-like Thursday, with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures near 40 degrees. Some clouds will arrive in the afternoon as temperatures drop to 33 degrees, with a slight chance of rain overnight.

Rain showers could fall Friday morning and continue into the overnight hours. Skies will be cloudy in the afternoon, with temperatures warming up to 55. Clouds will remain in the evening as temperatures sink into the lower 40s.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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