Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate Saturday as snow turns into freezing rain and continues in parts of Massachusetts through most of the day, forecasters said.
Freezing rain is expected to stay in the area through much of Saturday, fading into regular rain in some areas around noon. Other areas, including Lowell, Fitchburg, and Framingham, will likely experience freezing rain through 5 or 6 p.m.
The below-freezing temperatures and freezing rain will make for icy conditions on the roads, forecasters said, and drivers are advised to check forecasts before leaving and to avoid travel if they can.
“We’re not recommending travel,” said weather service meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell. “We can’t stop anyone from getting on the roads. But if you have to get on the roads, just make sure you check the forecasts.”
Temperatures dipped back below freezing at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, the weather service tweeted, increasing the chances of icy roads for drivers.
As much as two inches of snow had fallen in parts of Massachusetts on Friday night. Slick road conditions on Friday night prompted the state highway department to curtail travel on Interstate 495 Friday night.
The southbound side of the highway was temporarily closed between Exit 17 and Exit 14 “to treat icing conditions,” the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said on Twitter.
State Police reduced the speed limit on Interstate 90 to 40 miles per hour in both directions, between Exit 11 in Millbury and the New York border. That speed limit will remain in effect Saturday morning.
There were no other road closures or speed limit reductions, MassDOT spokesman Patrick Marvin said in an e-mail shortly before 9:30 p.m.
“Drivers are encouraged to make informed decisions on traveling before heading out onto the roadways,” he said. “Motorists should reduce speeds, give plenty of space to plows and other vehicles, and exercise safe driving habits.”
For those driving north for the holidays, a winter storm warning is in effect over the state line in New Hampshire until noon Saturday, with snow accumulation of 5 to 8 inches and icy road conditions, making travel “very hazardous or impossible,” according to the weather service.
The weather service had issued a winter weather advisory Saturday morning for most of the state, not including the southern coast and the Cape and Islands, warning drivers that the mixed precipitation could bring difficult travel conditions until noon Saturday. A few counties, including north and central Middlesex County, will have that weather advisory in effect through 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The freezing rain will “lead to slippery spots on any untreated surfaces, and so certainly that’s something people need to keep an eye on,” meteorologist William Babcock said early Friday evening.
As much as 2 inches of snow fell across parts of the state by 8 p.m. Friday, with areas north and west of Boston getting the most accumulation, the weather service said on Twitter. Two inches were reported in Leominster, with Pepperell getting 1.5 inches and Lexington seeing 0.6 inches. Parts of southwestern New Hampshire saw as much as 4.5 inches of snow, according to the weather service.
[830 pm] here are observed #snowfall totals thru 8 pm across #MA and nearby NH & VT. Not much additional snowfall tonight with precip mainly in the form of freezing rain except all rain south coast of MA & #RI. Untreated roads/surfaces will become #icy northwest of I-95. #winter pic.twitter.com/sekx9XL6g2— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) December 23, 2017
MassDOT deployed 1,125 pieces of equipment on roads to deal with the ice and snow, Marvin said.
Bill Simpson, a meteorologist at the weather service, said that as long as trucks are out salting the highways, the precipitation shouldn’t cause problems for travelers on main roads. On side roads, however, he said, “It doesn’t take much freezing rain to become an issue.”
Schools across Massachusetts and New Hampshire announced early dismissals or closed entirely ahead of the snow Friday.Jacob Carozza can be reached at jacob. firstname.lastname@example.org. Martha Schick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarthaSchick.