Get off the roads — or better yet, stay home altogether.
That, in a nutshell is the advice of city, town and state officials today as a dangerous superstorm named Nemo, expected to pack winds of 35 miles per hour and gusts of up to 50 mph or higher, continues to bear down on Cape Ann and all of New England with a force that weather experts believe will essentially slow the region to a stop through sometime tomorrow.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who earlier declared a state of emeergency for all of Massachusetts that went into effect at noon, has now ordered a roadway travel ban effective at 4 p.m. meaning that all non-essential cars and other vehicles must be off all roadways by that time.
That dramatic step, aimed at opening the streets and roadways for emergency crews trying to clear the snow and tend to other issues, follows other transportation shutdowns announced earlier.
All service on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s bus and rail lines — including commuter rail service to and from Cape Ann — is scheduled to shut down at 3:30 p.m. Also, the Cape Ann Transportation Authority, or CATA, is shutting down its service at 3 p.m., officials announced this morning.
ion On Cape Ann, the Cape Ann Transporation Authjority is shutting down its bus service today at 3 p.m. as wwll
On Cape Ann and across most of Eastern Massachusetts, all schools are closed for the day, and a number of businesses were looking to close down early as well.
The National Weather Service, continuing to track the storm, has maintained a full blizzard warning that began at 6 a.m. and carries through 1 p.m. on Saturday. A blizzard is defined as a storm that carries winds of 35 miles per hour or higher with consistent heavy snow and minuum visibility over a period of at least three hours — and, by all counts, Nemo, so named by the National Weather Service which now names and recognizes winter storms that can carry hurricane force, will almost certainly fill the bill..
At the same time, all Cape Ann communities are working under street parking bans.
Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk Thursday declared a city snow emergency, with a ban on all on-street parking in the city beginning at 8 a.m. today and continuing “indefinitely” — likley through Sunday, the mayor said Thursday night. Residents may park in city lots where avaioable, but officials are warning that cars left on the street will be towed when public works crews and the city’s 60 outside contractors begin plowing operations. Residents must have their cars out of any school lots, however, by 6 a.m. Monday, according to the mayor’s office.
City officials confirmed that the “tagging and towing” would begin this afternoon, as crews strive to get ahead of or keep up with the storm. Those efforts will begin in outlying areas where plowing has traditionally been difficult or public works crews.
Manchester is also under a street parking ban that began at 8 a.m.
And the Rockport Board of Selectmen, in a midday emergency meeting, declared a formal state of emergency for the town as well. Selectman Paul Murphy said that declaration allows Town Admoinistrator Linda Sanders to call in additional employees on overtime and carry out other emergency spending, if necessary. The declaration would alsou make Rockport eligible for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) funding, if that becomes necessary.
“We hope it doesn’t,” Murphy said.
While the heaviest snowfall is projected to sock the so-called Boston-Providence corridor and southeastern Massachusetts with 24-36 inches of snow — that’s right, up to three feet — Cape Ann is also expected to take a major hit, according to the National Weather forecasts. The latest forecasts call for between 16 and 24 inches of snow across our region, with the heaviest blizzard conditions expected to hit between mid- and late afternoon and then carrying throughout the night. The storm is expected to ease tomorrow, with clearing conditions, sunny skies and a lot of storm cleanup likely for Sunday.
Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with Accuweather, told the Times late Thursday that, after starting this morning, the snowfall across Cape Ann should include a heavy buildup this afternoon at a rate of two to three inches per hour.
Edwards said winds could range anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour, but gusts could regularly reach more than 50 mph, posing the potential for widespread power outages.
He added the Cape Ann area can expect a 12-hour period of snowfall from this afternoon through Saturday. He said the storm is being caused by a merging of storm “features” coming from out of the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic and meeting another system coming eastward from the Great Lakes.
National Grid officials say they have crews in place and are prepared for widespread outages that could occur throughout the storm. The city of Gloucester will also be coordinating a small emergency operations center at Addison Gilbert Hospital.
We will update this story here at gloucestertimes.com as the storm develops and more information becomes available. To have text alerts regarding the storm or other breakng news coverage sent to your mobile phone, just sign up for the Times’ free text-alert service on the gloucestertimes.com homepage.
For more up-to-date coverage, follow the Times’ news team on Facebook and on Twitter.com @gdtnews. For full coverage of the storm, look to tomorrow’s print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.