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What you need to know in Boston for Tuesday's blizzard

Thousands of pieces of equipment will be clearing roadways statewide, with up to 18 inches of snow expected.
Derek Kouyoumjian / Metro

Winter isn’t over, Bostonians, and this upcoming storm may actually be one for the record books, forecasters say.

Eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Gloucester and other areas, will be in a winter storm warning on Tuesday, from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a blizzard watch extending from Tuesday afternoon through the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow will start early, beginning between 5 and 7 a.m. on Tuesday and making its mark quickly. It won’t take long for the flurries to fall heavily; forecasters say to expect 2 to 4 inches of snow per hour almost immediately, affecting the morning commute and piling up inches into the early afternoon.

Eastern Massachusetts could see between 12 and 18 inches; Boston specifically should expect closer to 12, Mayor Marty Walsh said in a press conference.

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A snow emergency will go into effect at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, which means parking is banned on the city's main thoroughfares. The snowfall could get as heavy as 5 inches per hour, Walsh said, with wind gusts up to 50 to 60 miles per hour, causing snow drifts up to three feet high.

The National Weather Service warns that this storm could upset the current records for the top 10 one-day snowfall totals for the month of March.

Boston’s snowiest March day was March 19, 1956, when the city saw 13.2 inches. Worcester has had it worse, with more than 15 inches falling on March 12, 1959.

Schools

Boston Pubilc Schools will be closed on Tuesday, but all standalone Boston Centers for Youth and Families will be open as a resource for children of parents who still have to go into work.

Walsh said that a decision was not yet made about a school closure for Wednesday. The city will wait to announce a possilble closure depending on how successful cleanup is after the storm stops Tuesday night.

Trains and buses

Public transportation will be up and running on Tuesday. The MBTA will be operating its regular service, which includes the Green, Red, Orange and Blue train lines, as well as its regular bus schedule — though officials warn that some bus routes will be altered to snow routes as necessary and that some bus lines will be temporarily suspended during the day.

The Mattapan trolley line will be suspending service on Tuesday with a supplemental bus shuttle in its place, and all MBTA boat service is suspended. The commuter rail will be operating at a “severe weather schedule,” which means all lines will be operating, but not all scheduled trains.

Officials advise residents to check mbta.com/winter and the MBTA’s Twitter @MBTA throughout the day for the most updated information and to see which commuter rail trains specifically are canceled or rescheduled.

“The MBTA is fully prepared for tomorrow's storm,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email on Monday. “Since the winter of 2015, the T has spent more than $100 million on new snow-fighting equipment and infrastructure improvements, including new third rail for all sections of the Red Line that are not underground. Red Land Orange Line trains have eighty new snow plows. Rail heaters and anti-icing equipment will be activated to prevent ice from forming on the third rail.”

Roads

Heavy snow first thing means a dangerous morning commute, according to forecasters.

“This is not your typical winter event," said Tim Tomlin, highway administrator of the state Department of Transportation, during a Monday press conference. "This is a fast moving, high impact event — the amount of snow we’re getting in a short period of time will make travel extremely difficult. If you absolutely positively don't need to be on the roads, you shouldn't,” he said.

Tomlin said that the state will have about 4,000 pieces of snow removal equipment on the roads and will distribute 500,000 gallons of liquid deicer on to roads ahead of the storm’s start.

The Massachusetts turnpike will also have a reduced speed on Tuesday and the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane will be closed, starting at 7 a.m.

Gov. Charlie Baker also warned residents to stay off of the roads unless absolutely necessary and to opt for public transportation instead.

“Two to 4 inches of snow an hour on the roads is a lot of snow, combined that with 40 to 50 mph winds and the plows trying to get out there and actually plow the roads, and you’re creating really dangerous and unsafe situation for drivers,” Baker said during a press conference.

“People need to understand they may get up and not see much, but once it starts to snow, every report we’ve had on this is it's gonna snow hard and fast for long period of time,” he said. “It will create white-out conditions.”

Power

With snow possibly turning to sleet and rain later in the day, combined with intense winds, the governor said that power outages may occur, especially on the Cape and Islands. Officials warned residents that if they see downed power lines, to call their local police and stay away from live wires.

If your power goes out, state officials said to call the utility company directly at these numbers:

Eversource 800-592-2000

National Grid 800-465-1212

Unitil: 888-301-7700

Personal Safety

Boston's non-emergency phoneline, 311, will be staffed with extra volunteers on Tuesday, but Walsh stressed that for emergency sitautions, residents should call 911.

As you begin to shovel yourselves out, Walsh advised clearing your car's exhaust pipe and your home's vents first to prevent any danger from carbon monoxide. Anyone able to shovel is also asked to help clear city hydrants, cross walks and catch basins as well.

"We're asking you to keep eye out for your elderly neighbors and people who ar housebound," Walsh said. "Please check on them today before the storm starts and also tomorrow, to make sure their heating systems are working."

Anyone who sees a homeless person out is also advised to call 911. The city is working with homeless shelers throughout the area to ensure that nobody is turned away.

Winter preparedness by the numbers

Massachusetts:4,000 pieces of snow removal equipment on state roads

500,000 gallons of de-icer

Boston:

780 pieces of plowing equipment on city roads at peak times

450 sanders pretreating roads through Tuesday morning

More than 36,000 tons of salt available

Out of the city's $23 million snow budget, Boston has roughly $5.5 million left (Walsh says this is enough to get the city through this storm without having to break into reserve funds)

4th school closing of the year

 
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