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February 8, 2013

Bracing for a blizzard

Schools closing as 'Nemo' packs 16-24 inches

It was 35 years ago this week that the notorious and deadly Blizzard of ‘78 pummeled Cape Ann and all of New England.

Now, residents, officials and businesses across Cape Ann are bracing for a hit of anywhere from 18 to 24 inches of snow, with accompanying high winds this afternoon, lasting well into Saturday, thanks to a likely Blizzard of 2013 named Nemo.

The National Weather Service, which now names winter storms that can essentially reach hurricane force, has declared a formal blizzard warning from 6 a.m. today through 1 p.m. Saturday — indicating a confirmed blizzard, defined as a snowstorm with continuous snowfall, 35-mile per hour winds and minimal visibility conditions lasting at least three hours.

As a result, a snow emergency and on-street parking bans are in effect in Gloucester from 8 a.m. today until further notice — and may be expected to last into Sunday, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Thursday night. Manchester’s parking ban also begins at 8 a.m. today.

In addition, Gloucester schools are closed, and after school activities have been cancelled. Rockport officials initially announced Thursday that middle/high school students will be released at 11 a.m. and elementary students will be released at noon, but Rockport Superintendent Robert Liebow updated that announcement Thursday night to say that there would be no school here today at all.

Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with Accuweather, told the Times Thursday that the snowfall across Cape Ann should start this morning, with 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 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 Friday afternoon to Saturday. He said the storm is being caused by weather “features” from the Gulf of Mexico moving into the Atlantic Ocean where they will accumulate moisture, gain momentum and then meeting conditions from the Great Lakes and Midwest regions. All of that is combining to create Superstorm Nemo.

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