Nor’easter could drop foot of snow south of Boston

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By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / January 26, 2011

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Another nor’easter is expected to batter the region today, bringing more snow, wind, and the possibility of coastal flooding to a beleaguered region on the heels of an Arctic cold snap, forecasters said.

The storm is expected to hit early this afternoon and pick up into the evening, dropping as much as 12 inches of snow in some areas south of Boston, said Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

“At this point, the highest snowfall will be just south of Boston, especially in Norfolk and Bristol counties and Rhode Island,’’ Vallier-Talbot said.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood watch for the entire east coast of Massachusetts, as high seas combined with northeast winds, higher than normal tides, and storm surges of 2 to 2 1/2 feet could cause havoc.

Vallier-Talbot said winds along the coast will reach 30 to 35 miles per hour tonight and warned that if the storm tracks farther out to sea, the Cape and Islands could get hit hard.

“She’s going to blow,’’ Vallier-Talbot said.

In the Boston area, more than 6 inches of snow was expected to fall today, but the brunt of the storm was expected to come later tonight, mercifully sparing most of the evening commute, Vallier-Talbot said.

State transportation officials said they were prepared for yet another onslaught of snow and said state highways could accommodate the build-up without the need for dumping accumulated snow elsewhere.

Adam Hurtubise, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said plows will push the latest snow out of the way as it falls.

“State roads are wide enough that we can continue to push the snow back,’’ Hurtubise said. “A couple of hours before the storm hits, we will pretreat the roads with calcium chloride to prevent the snow from bonding with the road and respond with salt trucks as necessary.’’

Hurtubise said 4,000 pieces of equipment are at the ready.

Yesterday in Boston, crews from the Department of Public Works were busy moving existing snow to six different “snow farms’’ around the city, in anticipation of the coming storm, said Katie Ward, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“They’ll be moving more snow tonight,’’ Ward said yesterday.

“We definitely want to emphasize to people to take public transportation tomorrow,’’ she said.

The snow farms are located at Eagle Hill in East Boston, American Legion Highway in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, Reservation Road in Hyde Park, Marine Industrial Park and Black Falcon Terminal in South Boston, Columbus Avenue in Roxbury, and Terminal Street in Charlestown.

Ward said city outreach workers have been appealing to the homeless to seek shelter during the freezing weather over the weekend and will continue to provide shelter. Ward said last night that it was too early to know whether the city will declare a snow emergency.

Elsewhere in the state yesterday, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued an air quality warning for the Springfield area, saying the atmosphere had been fouled by wood burning.

The warning means the air is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

“This is not unusual, unfortunately,’’ said spokesman Joe Ferson. “It does happen in the wintertime with a lot of wood burning in the western part of the state as opposed to coastal areas that have a better mix of air flow.’’

Ann Ottalagana, manager of health promotion and public policy at the American Lung Association in Massachusetts, said she believed many people in the area were burning wood to supplement their normal systems of heating in response to the recent bout of frigid weather.

The storm is expected to move off to the Northeast by midday tomorrow, when skies will clear and temperatures will drop to the teens along the coast and to single digit-temperatures farther inland, Vallier-Talbot said.

Massport spokesman Phil Orlandella said last night that Logan International Airport officials were monitoring the coming storm, but had taken no action yet.

“We’ll meet with the airlines tomorrow morning to discuss their intentions and figure out a plan,’’ Orlandella said.

John M. Guilfoil of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Jenna Duncan contributed to this report. Stewart Bishop can be reached at