Public officials throughout the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire were bracing themselves last night for the latest wallop in a winter of snow storms, which was expected to drop between 6 inches and a foot of snow across the region by the time it ends late tonight or early tomorrow.
Several schools, including the Lawrence Catholic Academy, cancelled classes. Meanwhile, several other school districts in the region had already made plans for school cancellations or early release of students.
Lawrence Public Schools cancelled all of its preschool classes for today and announced it would dismiss all students on a staggered early release schedule, beginning with kindergarten at 11 a.m., then grades 1 through 8 at 11:30 a.m. and high school at 12:30 p.m. Schools for Exceptional Studies for the High School will be released at 11:30 a.m. followed by grades 1 through 8 at 12:30 p.m.
Central Catholic High School planned to dismiss its students at 11:30 a.m.
But with heavy snow expected to hit early in the morning, some — including Ryan Breton, a Penn State meteorology student who runs AtkinsonWeather.com — questioned the wisdom of having an early release.
School officials were monitoring the weather reports late last night, considering possible cancellations if snow conditions worsened. The National Weather Service Boston updated its projected arrival time for the snow late last night, forecasting that the snow would begin between 5 and 6 a.m. today in areas south of the Massachusetts Turnpike and would reach northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire between 8 and 9 a.m.
The National Weather Service was calling for 5 to 9 inches of snow throughout the Lawrence area today and another 2 to 4 inches of snow tonight.
Rain, snow, and sleet are expected overnight before 3 a.m, then snow and sleet likely between 3 a.m and 5 a.m, then snow and sleet likely, possibly mixed with rain after 5 a.m. tomorrow.
“If you absolutely have to commute to work on Thursday morning, do so early (and keep in mind the fact that the worst of the storm will be hitting during the afternoon/evening commutes),” Breton posted on his website last night.
“Snow will pick up in intensity as the morning progresses. By midday and early afternoon, it should be snowing quite hard in the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire. Snow will fall at the rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour in spots during the afternoon,” Breton said.
“This will not be a ‘cold’ storm — temperatures will rise into the lower 30s during the afternoon. Consequently, the ‘rain-snow line’ will play a major role in our forecast,” he said.