Calling the storm moving into the state "serious and significant," Gov. Deval Patrick is sending home state employees at 3 p.m. Thursday and is asking private businesses to do the same.
"This is for the safety of people and also for the ease of keeping up with the clearing of the roads," Patrick said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said he will make a decision later on Thursday on whether state employees would be working on Friday.
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The National Weather Service has forecasted that Boston and much of Eastern Massachusetts will get covered in up to 14 inches of snow. The worst of the storm is expected to hit Thursday night and into Friday morning and some parts of the state could experience blizzard conditions overnight.
With more than a foot of snow expected, many cities and towns have already declared snow emergencies and canceled school for Thursday and Friday.
State police said that speed along the Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, has been reduced to 40 m.p.h. for the entire roadway from the New York border to Boston.
Speaking during a news conference on Thursday morning, Mayor Thomas Menino urged Boston residents to obey the snow emergency order and to clear the sidewalks of snow and ice. Menino, the city's longest serving mayor, is overseeing what will likely be his last snowstorm as his successor will be sworn in on Monday.
"I didn't expect this type of going away present," Menino said. "We'll be alright. It isn't the mayor, it's the team behind me."
Barbara Ferrer, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, also spoke and urged people to clear their car's exhaust pipe when starting to shovel and warned of the dangers of carbon monoxide . Last year's February blizzard turned deadly when multiple people were found in cars apparently trying to keep warm.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.