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Sunday snowfall made Massachusetts an ‘icy accident-covered mess’

A snowy field in Hingham Monday after the season’s first snowstorm.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

In the Boston area, the season’s first snowstorm seemed modest, a gentle reminder of winter’s return. Worcester received two to three inches, Cape Cod a bit less, while Boston got only a dusting.

But the icy, snowy conditions, arriving earlier than expected on Sunday afternoon, wreaked havoc on the state’s roads, causing car crashes across the state and sparking frustration that cities and towns were poorly prepared for the early burst of winter and did not sufficiently treat the roads.

Worcester alone saw 72 accidents between 3 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday, police said. One video, tweeted by a WBZ-TV reporter Sunday night, showed a car that partially overturned after apparently sliding down a hill into a parked vehicle.

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Things weren’t much better in Arlington.

Rachel Fernekees said she and her 9-year-old son were stuck in their Jeep Wrangler for about 90 minutes on Sunday evening by the intersection of Ashland Street and Florence Avenue as they tried to get home from her child’s hockey practice.

A police officer “put his hand up and said ‘stop, don’t go down this hill,’” because four vehicles at the bottom had been involved in accidents, Fernekees said. The officer was pulling drivers over and advising them to wait until a sand truck could treat the road.

“I grew up in Arlington; I haven’t experienced something like that before,” Fernekees said. “It was quite an ordeal.”

Another Arlington resident said they had abandoned their vehicle after encountering an “icy accident-covered mess,” choosing to make their way home through gusty winds on foot.

After witnessing “thousands of dollars of unnecessary damage” at the intersection in front of her house, another resident said she was compelled to hang up a sign that she quickly repurposed from her child’s artwork with warnings that read “Danger!” and “Very icy!”

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”Does anyone know how much it costs for DPW to salt the roads around town?” she wrote on a community Facebook page. “This was my best attempt to prevent more damage but nonetheless ... not as effective as treating the roads.”

Sandy Pooler, Arlington’s town manager, said Sunday’s “storm came in harder and faster than the weather predictions had forecast.”

“The DPW relies on weather forecasts to plan its snow response. In this case the forecasts did not give us adequate warning, but once the DPW saw how conditions were developing it responded well,” Pooler said. “Once we started salting the roads, they returned to blacktop quickly.”

In all, there were 24 car accidents Sunday, “21 of which were without injury,” Pooler said.

In some areas, road conditions remained treacherous on Monday as transportation officials briefly implemented a 40 mph speed limit on a stretch of the Mass. Pike in western Massachusetts. The restriction was lifted shortly before 8 a.m.

The wintry conditions caused major delays at Logan Airport, with some passengers forced to wait on the tarmac for hours after landing. As of Monday morning, Logan had seen 55 flight cancellations in the past 24 hours, according to Flight Aware, a flight-tracking website.

On Delta Air Lines, delays were caused by issues with de-icing planes, the airline said.

“We apologize to our customers who were inconvenienced and delayed due to winter weather in Boston Sunday night,” Delta said Monday. “Deicing delays led to backups for departing and arriving flights. We are safely working to recover our operation and resume our routine schedules today.”

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Airport officials advised travelers to check with their airlines on the status of their flights.

The MBTA also urged passengers Monday to use caution as they approached train tracks given the slick conditions.

“Due to icy and cold weather conditions, please use caution when near railroad crossings or train stations,” the MBTA posted on Twitter at 6:13 a.m. “Please also be careful when boarding and alighting trains, as well as when accessing platforms via ramps or stairs.”

In Boston, street sweeping was canceled Monday due to the weather, city officials said. During the storm, 130 pieces of equipment were treating city streets, the public works department said.

Asked Monday if Boston streets had been pre-treated or salted before the snowfall, a city spokesperson said the “Public Works Department pre-treats streets prior to any inclement weather event to help keep our roadways clear and safe.”

Roads were also pre-treated with brine in Newton, which had “crews and equipment ready to go,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement.

”While the snow arrived a little earlier than expected and with somewhat higher amounts of snow, DPW expected the conditions which we faced,” she said.

Still, the conditions caused about 30 accidents within three hours on Sunday, most notably a multi-car accident on Route 9, she said.

The National Weather Service reported that Hawley in western Massachusetts had received 7.5 inches of snow, where Chicopee received more than 6 inches. Other totals included 5.7 inches in Westfield, 5 inches in Springfield, 5.5 inches in Northampton, 1.1 inches in Medford, 2 inches in Weymouth, 4.1 inches in Sturbridge, less than an inch in Boston and Chelsea, and 1.9 inches in Shrewsbury and Westborough.

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Around 8 a.m., the National Weather Service reported that snow was no longer falling except in some parts of southeastern Massachusetts.

“Snow has come to an end for everyone except the immediate south shore and parts of Cape Cod where ‘ocean effect’ snow showers continue for the next few hours,” forecasters wrote on Twitter.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her @shannonlarson98.