BOSTON (CBS) — The storm dumping heavy snow across the northeast was officially declared a blizzard in the City of Lawrence Tuesday afternoon. The National Weather Service says blizzard criteria was met in several other communities, including Boston, Marshfield and Worcester, but not long enough to be officially declared a blizzard.
The NWS defines a blizzard as three consecutive hours of snow that reduces visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile and sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more.
Earlier on Tuesday, the NWS announced that a blizzard was declared in Worcester, but later said that report was incorrect.
Driving conditions were extremely dangerous on roads across the Commonwealth at the height of the rare March winter storm.
In Boston, MassDOT cameras caught a close call on the Zakim bridge involving a jackknifed tractor-trailer.
In addition, the number of power outages around the state jumped around noon due to a combination of high winds and wet, heavy snow, leaving roughly 68,000 without power at one point.
Gov. Charlie Baker said pre-staged crews were ready to respond to outages in the coastal areas most likely to be hit.
The storm was causing poor visibility and whiteout conditions.
Cars were piling up by early afternoon. On Belmont Avenue in Brockton, a tree fell on top of an SUV, leaving the driver with minor injuries.
On Western Avenue in Brighton, a car took out a utility pole and crashed into a Route 70A MBTA bus shortly after 11 a.m.
On North Street in Tewksbury, a firetruck hit a car, leaving both drivers with minor injuries.
Luckily, nobody was injured when this car went off the road on Route 117 in Lincoln around 10 a.m.
Trees were down in several towns, including in Hingham, where a large tree smashed into a house while three family members were home.
Cambridge Police said they were responding to 15 calls for downed trees Tuesday afternoon, including this one that fell on a car on Prentiss Street, which was now closed.
Wind and waves blasted coastal regions, and some coastal flooding was reported.
In Boston, flooding closed Morrissey Boulevard at Exit 14.
Baker thanked the public for heeding his warning to stay off the roads.
He also reminded drivers to steer clear of snowfighting equipment on the state’s highways.
“I think it’s fair to say that the most important message on this one is for people to stay away from the plows, and the first responders and the folks who are out there working the roads,” said Gov. Baker. “There’s already some commentary on social media that I saw this morning that people have in fact gotten a little too close to some of the plows, and nothing good can come from that.”
In New Hampshire, the Department of Transportation said three of their plows had been struck.
Massachusetts Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin said there were over two dozen instances so far this winter of vehicles hitting plows, and urged drivers to give plows a wide berth.
A blizzard warning was in effect in Boston Tuesday, and Gov. Baker said about 30 towns had opened up their emergency response centers.
MassDOT asked the public to avoid travel if possible.
Check: WBZ Traffic Page
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack thanked the men and women of the MBTA, MassDOT, and contractors for their hard work clearing and preparing roads.
The MBTA was operating on their regular weekday schedule Tuesday, though ferry service was suspended and the Mattapan Line was running on shuttle buses.
“Our focus is on delivering a full service today,” said interim MBTA GM Brian Shortsleeve during a morning press conference.
Check: MBTA Winter Service Page
Shortsleeve said the T saw only about a quarter of their usual volume Tuesday morning.
The Commuter Rail, however, operated on a “blue level” reduced severe weather schedule–meaning no express trains and delays of 15 to 25 minutes. The details of that schedule were on their website.
Baker reminded anyone expecting to take a flight out of Logan Airport Tuesday to check with their airline ahead of time, as there were “dozens of postponements and hundreds of cancellations” so far–leaving some travelers stranded.
Amtrak service to Boston and New York City was suspended due to the storm.
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles offices were closed Tuesday.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports