By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Stores were closed, school was canceled and shovels were at the ready yesterday as the opening act of the new year’s first storm brought snow and wind to the region.
The snow began early yesterday morning, though barely any had accumulated by daybreak. Meteorologist Arthur Francis said the city had seen about 4 inches by mid-afternoon, and 6 inches by 7 p.m., but that the snow was uneven in places thanks to its light weight and the accompanying wind.
“Some places it’s almost nothing, some places it’s up to 8 or 10 inches,” he said. “The snow is very, very light.”
Francis said yesterday’s weather was a “precursor” and that a secondary storm out at sea would likely bring heavier winds, more snow and possible flooding — especially during this morning’s high tide, which could be the highest in recent memory. Frigid temperatures were also expected.
Public Works Director John Tomasz said about 20 trucks were clearing the city’s streets yesterday — about a third of them contractors — but that he expected 30 to 35 trucks would be working the overnight hours, during which the storm was expected to escalate.
“It’s definitely going to get worse,” he said, adding that plow operators didn’t necessarily work set shifts. “They’ll go pretty much as long as they can.”
Schools throughout the region canceled classes for yesterday and today, extending the winter break for students, while other destinations, like libraries and YMCAs, opted to close early.
Although some stores also closed early, many chose to remain open, at least for yesterday, including the Wal-Mart and Market Basket on Highland Avenue, the Shaw’s Supermarket on Trader’s Way, the Northshore Mall in Peabody and the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers.
Also open regular hours was the Winer Bros. hardware store on Lafayette Street, where Ann Brunelle, a sales associate, said business had been steady throughout the day. She said that, in addition to car cleanup supplies, the store typically saw a run on shovels before storms, but that they were in no danger of running out.
“We still have a ton because of that last storm,” she said.
Police throughout the area said things were quiet and people were largely keeping off the roads. Nevertheless, reports of minor accidents did trickle in, including one in Peabody in which a vehicle struck a plow’s blade at Lowell and Johnson streets, and one at Highland Avenue and Willson Road in Salem that occurred when one vehicle slid into another at the intersection’s red light. There were no injuries or tows as a result of either.
In Danvers, police received reports of two accidents on Route 114 within about four hours of each other yesterday afternoon, but an officer said there no injuries in either of the crashes, and that they appeared to be routine and not the result of the weather.
In Marblehead and Swampscott, police said they hadn’t heard any reports of flooding, although the towns were under a coastal flood watch. An alert on the National Weather Service Web page yesterday warned that “most significant coastal flooding is expected during the midday Friday high tide cycle.” A coastal flood warning was expected to remain in effect until 3 p.m. today.
The NWS also issued a blizzard warning, saying that up to 12 to 18 inches of snow could accumulate overnight.
“Higher amounts likely...especially across Essex County,” read the warning.
Neil Dempsey can be reached at email@example.com.