Forecasters sharply reduced the anticipated snowfall for Eastern Massachusetts Wednesday night into Thursday, after the region had braced for the fourth storm this month marked by high winds and snow.
But late Wednesday night, the National Weather Service changed a winter storm warning, which is issued when 7 inches or more of snow is expected in a 24-hour period, to a winter storm advisory, which is called when just 2 to 4 inches of snow is expected.
The change was issued for Eastern and Central Massachusetts, parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the weather service.
“There’s a lot of dry air in place that’s really eating away at the snow,” said Stephanie Dunten, a meteorologist with the service, explaining the change just after 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Between 3 and 4 inches was expected to fall in Boston, parts of the North Shore, and the Merrimack Valley, according to the service.
Forecasts of a significant storm prompted some local school districts to cancel school on Thursday, including Boston, Chelsea, Lynn, Malden, and Revere.
The weather could still complicate Thursday morning’s commute, particularly for those coming into Boston from the southeastern part of the state, according to a forecaster at the National Weather Service.
“It’s probably going to be slow,” said Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist with the service, of Thursday morning’s commute for South Shore residents.
From Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning, the storm was expected to hit Eastern Massachusetts from the southwest to the northeast, said Vallier-Talbot. The southeastern part of the state is expected to get hit the hardest, with Foxborough seeing between 4 and 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, according to the service.
The storm warnings prompted widespread cancellation of Wednesday evening activities.
Before any snow fell on Boston Common, the impending spring storm was met with nonchalance Wednesday evening.
Christa Sabatini of Boston said she used the storm forecast as a teaching moment on New England weather for her 4-year-old daughter, Vivian.
“She learned that it was the first day of spring yesterday in school, so she said, ‘Then how come there’s going to be snow?’ ” Sabatini said of her daughter, who was bundled up in a puffy jacket and a hooded scarf with bear ears.
“I explained that we live in New England,” Sabatini said. “Sometimes there’s flowers, but sometimes there’s snow on the first day of spring. You just never know.”
Bill Anderson of Brookline described the beginning of spring as “not very vernal,” but having lived here for more than 30 years, he said he’s not surprised.
“I have had my heart broken before,” Anderson said.
He added with a shrug, “You just have to have a hard heart.”
Bill Jena of Pepperell said, as a lifelong New Englander, he’s seen worse.
“I’ve seen this type of cold in April, even the beginning of May,” said Jena. “It can be depressing at times, but it’s something you get used to growing up here.”
“Something that’s interesting about New England is that we seem to get winter, a little bit of spring, and then we go into summer,” Jena said. “It’s like spring just gets skipped over sometimes.”
Fitchburg, located in northern Worcester County, may only see 3 to 4 inches, while Amherst, nestled in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, could see only 1 to 2 inches of snow, according to the service.
Snow had started to fall in Taunton and New Bedford around 3 p.m. Wednesday, she said. On Cape Cod, snow was mixing with rain Wednesday afternoon. Provincetown and Chatham are expected to see less than an inch of snow from the storm, according to the service.
The snow was expected to start to fall in Boston some time after midnight, with the heaviest of the precipitation starting to taper off between 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday, Dunten said late Wednesday night.
Previous forecasts had the snow falling in Boston earlier, but snow bands from the storm were struggling to overcome dry air in the atmosphere Wednesday evening, said Dunten.
Roads in the region could be slushy in the early morning Thursday but temperatures are expected to rise above freezing during the mid-morning hours, which will diminish accumulation, said Dunten.
Still, travelers should be prepared to add a little extra time to their commute on Thursday morning, she said.
“Roads could be a little slick,” she said.
The storm, according to National Weather Service forecasters, is expected to bring high wind gusts along the Massachusetts coast, reaching between 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour in Plymouth and on the Cape and Islands.
Winds were expected to peak between 8 p.m. Wednesday and daybreak on Thursday, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
There is a chance the storm may cause “scattered power outages,” especially in the southeastern part of the state, but MEMA officials do not expect the number of outages to reach the level of recent storms. A storm earlier this month left more than 230,000 Massachusetts utility customers without power.
There may be pockets of moderate coastal flooding in the southeastern part of the state during Thursday morning high tide, according to MEMA.