Updated 12/26, 8:50 p.m.
BOSTON (CBS) — Tens of thousands of people lost power and roads were treacherous to pass Sunday night, as Massachusetts was hit with its first blizzard since 2005.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency on Sunday, and State Police urged everybody to stay off the roads.
Conditions deteriorated rapidly from south to north during mid-afternoon Sunday. By early Sunday evening several inches of snow had already accumulated in southeastern Massachusetts.
Non-emergency state employees who work in the Executive branch do not have to report to work on Monday. Several cities and towns have also closed local offices for the day.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning from noon on Sunday through 6 p.m. Monday for all of Eastern Massachusetts except for the Cape and Islands. This is a very serious warning. Blizzard conditions are expected in all of eastern Massachusetts overnight.
A blizzard (technically) is when winds are sustained over 35mph, causing the blowing and drifting of snow to reduce visibilities to less than quarter of a mile for at least three hours. This will cause driving in many areas to be nearly impossible.
Visibility at times will be near zero.
The 3 a.m. high tide will also be very dramatic with moderate coastal flooding expected.
With the snowfall rates in some of these bands reaching over 2 inches per hour we could easily be looking at 15 to 20 inches of snow in some areas just outside of Boston or even in Boston itself.
By Sunday night, tens of thousands of people were without power.
Watch: Latest WBZ Accuweather forecast.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
At a press conference at the MEMA bunker on Sunday, Gov. Deval Patrick called for a state of emergency. “The snow will be wet, heavy. Temperatures will be at or below freezing and winds will be high. These are conditions that pose a substantial risk of power outages,” said Patrick.
Patrick urged people to wrap up their travel plans by 3 p.m. Sunday. “We expect visibility by then to be very low and travel to be extremely dangerous.”
The declaration of a state of emergency will allow Patrick to mobilize many of the Commonwealth’s assets, such as the National Guard, and allow officials to help local communities during this winter storm.
CONDITIONS ON THE COAST
There will likely be some mixing with rain in Southeast Massachusetts and on the Cape, with snow totals under six inches.
Time Lapse Video From Hingham, courtesy of Jeff Cutler
A coastal flood warning has been issued from Newburyport to Plymouth from midnight to 6 a.m. Monday. Vulnerable shore roads will be closed and some structural damage to coastal homes is possible.
HOW MUCH SNOW WILL WE GET?
Snow will fall at rates of 2 inches to as much as 4 inches per hour overnight, piling up quickly.
WBZ meteorologists are forecasting a widespread 12-18 inches with pockets of up to 2 feet of snow by Monday midday when the snow begins to wind down.
Amounts will be a bit less in extreme southeastern Massachusetts and over Cape Cod where some rain will mix in.
WIND WILL BE A FACTOR
Winds will be strongest at the coast, 25-50 with gusts to 60mph, but not too much better inland.
All of central and eastern Massachusetts will experience winds 20-40 with gusts nearing 50 mph out of the northeast, then veering to the north-northwest by tomorrow. This will certainly cause numerous power outages and some damage to trees and structures.
WHAT’S BOSTON DOING?
The city of Boston’s snow emergency began at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Boston will be using over 500 pieces of snow removal equipment and nearly 25,000 tons of salt to clear the snow over the next two days.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino announced that the city’s emergency homeless shelters will be open thoughout the day and evening to make sure everyone has a place to stay during the storm.
The City of Boston Storm Center has also been activated to provide information and service to Boston residents for all storm-related issues. Residents with storm-related questions or concerns should call the mayor’s 24-hour hotline at 617.635.4500.
Mayor Menino reminds residents of the following:
- Older residents or those with health conditions should refrain from shoveling this heavy wet snow.
- During a Snow Emergency, parking is prohibited on all major arteries in Boston. These streets are posted with “Tow Zone No Parking During Snow Emergency” signs.
- A listing of major arteries and alternate parking can be found at http://www.cityofboston.gov/snow/parking/.
- On streets other than major arteries, do not park within 20 feet of an intersection or further than one foot from the curb, as this impedes access for both emergency vehicles and snow plows.
- Parking space savers must be removed no more than 48 hours after a snow emergency is lifted. The City’s Department of Public Works will remove space savers left out beyond this period.
- Do not throw snow back into the street. “Throwbacks” force the city to remove snow from the same street twice.
- Shovel out fire hydrants, catch basins and pedestrian ramps close to your home.
- Property owners are reminded to shovel snow from sidewalks that abut their homes and businesses and any handicapped ramps close to your homes or business.
- Do not double-park.
- Please check on elderly neighbors and others in need.
- Trash pickup will be delayed on Monday and instead will be picked up on Tuesday.
- For additional snow and cold weather safety tips, please visit http://www.cityofboston.gov/snow.
TRAVEL DELAYS & CANCELLATIONS
While Logan Airport technically remained open on Sunday evening, most airlines cancelled their flights into and out of Boston. Phil Orlandella of Massport said flights scheduled for Monday morning were also in doubt, because planes would likely not be in place. He said it could take a couple of days to get everything back on track, and recommended travelers contact their airline for updates or rebooking.
Amtrak service between Boston in New York has also been cancelled because of the storm.
Once the heavy snow begins, MEMA is asking people to stay off of the roads during the overnight hours to allow road crews to safely complete their tasks.
This storm should not be underestimated or taken lightly. It will be one of the worst storms New England has seen in the last five years.