With as much as 10 inches of large, wet flakes expected to blanket the area by this morning, making this winter one of Boston's snowiest on record, officials last night declared a snow emergency, activated emergency parking rules, and canceled school today.
Snowfall from the storm that started last night was added to nearly 70 inches of snow recorded this winter at Logan Airport, putting the city about 30 inches shy of its seasonal snowfall record, said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton. If the storm amounts to 10 inches, he said, this winter could rank as the city's sixth snowiest.
Today will be the fifth time this academic year Boston public schools closed for a snow day. If officials need to close schools again this year, Boston students could be required to attend classes on a weekend or vacation day.
''You know it's a really bad winter when you have to cancel five days of school," said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for Boston Public Schools. He said the school system closed twice last year and didn't close at all the year before. This time, he said, ''it was a tough decision about closing, but the superintendent decided it was better to be safe."
School is now scheduled to end on June 30, five days later than planned. School cannot extend into July, Palumbo said.
At a press conference last night, Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged residents to remove their cars from main streets and park in lots and garages instead. After 9 last night, all cars parked on any street designated as an ''Emergency Snow Artery" were to be towed to make way for some 350 plows, sanders, and other snow-removal equipment.
''It's going to be very heavy snow," Menino said.
The city is now several million dollars over its snow budget, but he added: ''We don't count numbers -- it's about doing the job."
Officials at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation said they planned to use 34 plows and sanding trucks, 16 dump trucks equipped with plows, and other equipment to clear about 450 ''lane miles" of road and sidewalk in the city.
''We have the resources we need to keep the public safe," said Joseph O'Keefe, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
Globe correspondents Bill Dedman and Madison Park contributed to this report.