Governor Charlie Baker and other state officials urged drivers to stay off the road on Saturday when a potentially historic winter storm is expected to hit southern New England, dropping more than 2 feet of snow in some areas.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Baker asked residents to ride out the storm at home and avoid travel “unless it’s an emergency or you have some very essential and absolute reason for being out.”
“This kind of storm is nothing new for Massachusetts, but we have not had one like this for quite a while and everybody needs to take it very seriously,” Baker said. “Avoid going out if you can, and be sure to check up on your neighbors who may need help during the storm.”
Flurries began falling ahead of schedule in parts of eastern Massachusetts late Friday night.
Forecasters initially predicted the storm would reach the South Shore about midnight, but a light snowfall had already begun in communities including Plymouth, Taunton, Marshfield, New Bedford, and across Cape Cod after 10 p.m., the National Weather Service said.
Light snow was also reported at Logan Airport about 10:30 p.m., the agency said.
Baker said the state has deployed 40 members of the National Guard across eastern Massachusetts to help with rescues if necessary.
“It’d be critically important if you do have to go out and drive that you be very careful and go slow,” he said.
The state Department of Transportation is prepared to deploy approximately 3,900 pieces of equipment, including more than 1,400 plow and spreader trucks, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders, to treat and clear roads throughout the day. But with the storm forecast to drop 2 to 4 inches of snow per hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., it will be a challenge to keep the roads safe.
“We don’t want anybody to get hurt out there,” Baker said. “We don’t want people to get stuck. It’s going to be very cold tomorrow and tomorrow night and being stuck in a car is not where you want to be when it’s this cold.”
Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler said there will be a ban on tractor trailers on interstate highways beginning Saturday at 6 a.m. and continuing through midnight.
“MassDOT and the MBTA are well prepared for the storm and expect that a storm of this size will require a deployment of staff and equipment for a long duration for treatment and cleanup into the day on Sunday,” Tesler said. “Our snow and ice teams are ready and preparing.”
Many MBTA buses will run on reduced snow routes while both the commuter rail and subway will run on the regular weekend schedule, said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.
The Green Line’s D branch will close Saturday with replacement bus service running between Riverside and Kenmore, Poftak said. The T is also suspending service on the Mattapan line and replacing it with bus service, he said.
Poftak warned travelers that the storm will likely cause delays.
“At the snow rates we’re looking at it is going to be very difficult to keep the roads clear throughout the day,” he said. “We anticipate that there will be delays, particularly on bus service. Anyone who is out traveling should take that into account, leave extra time, and also expect that there may be delays as the day unfolds.”
With the blizzard arriving on a weekend, Baker said he hopes most residents will be off work and encouraged people who can work from home to do so.
“I think that will help these guys deal with the fact that snow will be falling practically as fast as they plow it away,” Baker said. “And when the winds are blowing, especially down on the South Shore and along the coast, that will create issues as well as with respect to the fact you’ll start seeing drifts and something will get plowed and literally minutes later people will have to plow it again.”
Baker encouraged residents to order takeout on Friday night to support local restaurants.
“This may be a relatively complex issue for us but for obviously everybody in the restaurant space they’re basically going to lose most of the weekend, which is why it would be great if people could order takeout tonight before the storm starts,” he said.
Nick Stoico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.