By Paul Tennant and Mark E. Vogler
---- — The latest snowstorm to sweep through the region yesterday came with an unwelcome feature — sleet and freezing rain — making for treacherous driving conditions.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning that was to remain in effect until 7 a.m. today. Reported snowfall ranged from around 6 to 10 inches throughout the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire by the time the snow ended last night and the sleet and rain had begun.
As Chuck Gately, a dispatcher for the Haverhill Highway Department, noted, this was a tricky storm — switching from snow to rain in the afternoon, then back to snow again and then sleet and rain. By 9 last night, the prevailing precipitation was freezing rain, which produced treacherous driving conditions. Officials reported parts of Interstate 93 in Woburn, where a rollover car accident occurred, to be a sheet of ice.
But earlier in the day, when temperatures were above freezing, municipal road crews welcomed the rain.
“Now we can make headway,” Lawrence Public Works Director John Isensee said yesterday afternoon, as the snow gave way to rain. Dismissing school at 11:30 a.m. reduced traffic and that was a help to plowers, he said.
The early closing of City Hall also aided the cleanup effort by getting more cars off the road, he said. Isensee and his crews fought the storm with 68 pieces of equipment, he said.
“We’re just going to have to keep chasing it,” said Methuen Public Works Director Raymond DiFiore. Plowers may have gotten somewhat of a break when the snow turned to rain, but when that rain turned to freezing rain, the roads got very slippery.
Methuen and other communities have had to make do with limited salt supplies, he added.
Lt. Charles Gray, spokesman for the North Andover Police Department, said the decision to cancel school kept many cars off the roads.
While there were some minor motor vehicle accidents and instances of cars skidding off the roads, there were no serious mishaps as of 5:30 p.m., Gray said.
Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully, like most local superintendents, said conflicting weather reports leading up to yesterday’s storm resulted in a delay in calling off school until 5 a.m. He said he would have liked to have notified parents and staff sooner, but that forecasts kept changing as to what time the first flakes were supposed to fall.
These are the unofficial snowfall totals provided by the National Weather Service for area communities: North Andover, 9 inches, 5:12 p.m.; Georgetown, 8 inches, 5:54 p.m.; Salisbury, 7 inches, 4:34 p.m.;Topsfield, 6.6 inches, 5:01 p.m.; Bradford section of Haverhill, 6.5 inches, 5:20 p.m.; and Boxford, 5.7 inches, 6 p.m. The Andover Police Department reported 6.5 inches of snow as of 4 p.m.
Ryan Breton, a meteorology student at Penn State University who runs AtkinsonWeather.com, said he measured 10 inches of snow in Atkinson, N.H., last night.
Other snowfall he reported: Seabrook, N.H., 8.4 inches; Hampstead, 9.4 inches; Methuen, 8 inches, 6:30 p.m.; and Lawrence 7.5 inches, 6:50 p.m.
“It was really coming down between 2:30 and 4 p.m.,” Breton said.
Staff reporter Mike LaBella contributed to this report.