With 88 percent of the electrical power restored to homes and businesses in Massachusetts affected by last week's ice storm, National Grid officials were bracing last night for an onslaught of snow this week that could set back those efforts.
"Company officials are keeping a close eye on weather forecasts for (last night) and (today), as predicted wintry conditions could cause new outages and have an impact on the overall restoration," the company said in a three-page news advisory.
The National Weather Service last night posted a winter weather advisory in effect until noon today. It forecast about an inch of snow and sleet overnight.
Today's forecast calls for sleet, rain, snow and freezing rain in the morning, with a chance of rain showers in the afternoon. The National Weather Service predicted a snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches, with highs in the upper 30s.
"The bottom line is it's going to be pretty minor," said meteorologist Mike Ekster of the National Weather Service bureau in Taunton, regarding the snowfall expected overnight and today.
"But Friday's storm is looking fairly significant. Possibly 6 inches of snow. By Friday afternoon rush hour, we could be seeing some fairly heavy snow. Sunday's storm could be equally potent," he said.
Heavy snow is forecast for Friday and into Friday night, with temperatures ranging in the upper 20s during the day and dipping to 10 to 15 degrees at night.
There's a 50 percent chance of snow on Sunday into Sunday night, with lows 15 to 20 and temperatures reaching highs in the lower 30s.
"The heavy snow could be very disruptive as far as transportation, but not as destructive as the ice," Ekster said.
"We're into winter now. By this time last year, we had almost 20 inches of snow. We could be making a lot of that up over the next few days," he said.
The entire New England region has been reeling since last Thursday's and early Friday's ice storm left 325,000 homes and businesses without electricity.
National Grid had restored power to 258,000 of the 294,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts that initially lost their electric service.
As of 10 last night, National Grid reported that 689 homes and businesses in Essex County were still without power, including 183 in Methuen, 169 in Haverhill, 75 in Lawrence, 70 in Andover and 38 in North Andover.
The company estimated the power would be restored to those communities by 10 a.m. tomorrow.
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