New Year snowstorm to keep many area schools closed

Last modified: Thursday, January 02, 2014
HARTFORD, Conn. — Residents and emergency management officials in New England and parts of New York prepared on Wednesday for a winter storm predicted to help usher in 2014 with snow and frigid temperatures across much of the region.

Snow was expected to begin falling overnight, promising a messy commute for the first business day of the new year, but the full storm wasn’t expected to hit until later Thursday. As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, the National Weather Service said.

In the Pioneer Valley, public schools announced closings due to expected snow and cold temperatures. Schools in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Northampton, South Hadley, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School and the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School will be closed Thursday and Friday. The Hampshire Regional district and schools in Hadley, Hatfield and the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School will be closed Thursday.

Several towns also issued parking bans in anticipation of the storm. In Easthampton, a ban on parking on all city streets was issued from midnight Wednesday to noon Friday. In South Hadley, a similar ban was issued from 6 p.m. Wednesday to noon Saturday and in Granby, from 8 p.m. Wednesday until further notice, according to the town Police Department.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of western Massachusetts through 10 a.m. Friday. Warnings are issued when an average of 6 or more inches of snow is expected in a 12-hour period or 8 or more inches in a 24-hour period.

“There will be travel problems,” said Hugh Johnson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Albany, N.Y. “It will be very cold.”

The storm dropped a half-foot or more of snow in Illinois on Wednesday, prompting hundreds of flight cancellations into and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.

Sections of interior southern New England and New York could get up to a foot of snow, with forecasts generally calling for 6 to 12 inches. New York City, likely to see 3 to 7 inches, issued a snow alert. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the city’s commuters to leave their cars at home in case major highways are closed for Thursday’s evening rush hour.

“We are looking at a serious storm situation,” Cuomo said.

Near-blizzard conditions were forecast for areas along the coast. The mayor of Bridgeport declared a state of emergency for Thursday, imposing special parking regulations so crews can plow.

While the bulk of the snow was expected to hit southern New England and southern sections of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the prospect of additional snow was welcome news for many areas farther north.

The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in northern New Hampshire said the number of skiers during the first five days of Christmas vacation week increased 26 percent compared to last year.

“We seem to be in a sweet spot of snow,” foundation executive director Thom Perkins said.

Staff writer Barbara Solow contributed to this report.