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Major winter storm moves in to Greater Boston

Mass. hit with March blizzard. By Taylor de Lench, Emily Zendt, and Scott LaPierre
Mass. hit with March blizzard. By Taylor de Lench, Emily Zendt, and Scott LaPierre

Snow was mixing with a wind-whipped, frigid rain on Tuesday afternoon in the Boston area, as a dangerous nor’easter continued to pound the region, creating dangerous driving conditions, felling trees and power lines, and leaving more than 54,000 power customers in the dark.

While the area inside of Interstate 95 will likely not see the major accumulations that had been predicted, some worried that the mix of precipitation could prove just as hazardous, with freezing temperatures extending the threat of icy roads into Wednesday morning.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Tuesday afternoon that Boston schools would be canceled for a second day Wednesday in light of the potential for danger on the roadways.


“I’d rather err on the side of caution than put our kids in harm’s way,” the mayor said in an afternoon news conference. About 4.5 inches of snow had fallen in the city by midafternoon.

Flooding continued to be a problem in many communities, even after high tide, and areas to the north and west of the Boston area were experiencing heavy snow.

The National Weather Service reported the storm was a blizzard in Lawrence, meaning the city experienced winds over 35 miles per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter of a mile over a sustained three-hour period. Forecasters reported that 16 inches had been observed in nearby Hubbardston, and some communities could still see 2 feet.

The weather service had earlier reported that Worcester met the criteria for a blizzard, but later revised the observation, noting conditions lasted for just one hour and 51 minutes — not the three hours required.

Power outages were scattered across the state, with many in Essex County. In Boston, more than 1,500 customers were without electricity shortly before 4 p.m.

The weather kept many Bay Staters home from work, leaving roads mostly empty, which proved fortunate when a tractor-trailer spun out on the Zakim Bridge and another was spotted going the wrong way on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Weston.


In Longmeadow, just south of Springfield, a town employee died after the truck he was driving was struck by a train, according to State Police. In New Hampshire, a 16-year-old girl died when her car left the road and struck a tree on a snowy road in Gilford.

Walsh said Boston had 750 pieces of snow-clearing equipment out on Tuesday afternoon. And the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported that more than 3,600 crews were clearing and treating state roads.

Governor Charlie Baker said at a noon news conference that State Police barracks were reporting light traffic and no major accidents. And he thanked people for keeping the roads clear.

“Most of all, we hope you can find a way to stay home,” he said, adding that he hoped that “everybody continues to use their head.”

Baker said officials were also closely monitoring the east-facing coastline, where forecasters have said high tide was expected to combine with wind-tossed waves to create minor to moderate flooding.

Baker said at that time that snow was falling in most places at a pace of 2 to 4 inches per hour.

Lawrence experienced blizzard conditions, the weather service said. A blizzard is period of three hours or more of sustained wind, or frequent gusts, of at least 35 miles per hour and considerable falling snow, blowing snow, or both.


Worcester, Boston, and other areas did see similar conditions, but for shorter periods of time, the weather service said.

The high winds were expected to continue through the afternoon. The weather service issued a high wind warning for much of Eastern Massachusetts.

Weather service meteorologist Stephanie Dunten said the warnings were effective until 6 p.m. Winds are expected to blow from 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour. On Cape Cod, the gusts are expected to reach 70 miles per hour.

With temperatures dropping in the early evening as the day goes on, officials said people should keep an eye out for icy roads, he said.

Wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour were reported by observers on the Cape and islands.

Wind damage was reported in Chelsea, Hull, Hingham, and Middleborough.

Speeds on the entire length of the Turnpike were lowered to 40 miles per hour.

Blizzard warnings were in effect across much of the state.

In Boston, a snow emergency and parking ban will be in effect Tuesday and last until 7 a.m. Wednesday.

The MBTA on Tuesday suspended service on the Red Line’s Mattapan trolley, offering buses instead. Keolis, the commuter rail operator, is operating on the Blue Level, meaning about one-third of trains are canceled and express trains make regular stops.

At Logan International Airport, airlines began canceling flights on Monday. Massport is urging travelers to check with their airlines before heading to East Boston.


Statewide, all Tuesday or Wednesday deadlines for municipal elections — including voter registration and nomination papers — were postponed to Thursday, according to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office. A special election in Lynn was also postponed.

Boston has seen 39.2 inches of snow this winter, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday’s storm is expected to push the city past its average total snowfall of 45 inches.

Things to note:

■ Boston has declared a snow emergency as of 7 a.m.

■ Many school districts have canceled classes for the day. Click here for the list.

■ Our live blog will fill you in on everything storm-related.

Keep visiting throughout the day for updates.

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.