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January 3, 2014

Bone-chilling storm drops more than a foot of snow

Temperatures expected to dip below 0 tonight

The coldest snow storm in nearly a decade dropped more than a foot of snow over much of the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire overnight to go with single digit temperatures and a sub-zero windchill that made scraping car windshields a frostbite threat.

Several Essex County communities — including Boxfield, Georgetown and Topsfield — were expected to get hit with close to two feet of snow by the time the nor’easter ended today.

The snow combined with the bitter cold prompted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to close state government for today while urging private employers to keep their workers at home.

“The point is to keep people off of the roads and away from the cold, which is extreme,” Patrick said last night in a televised news conference from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker.

Gov. Maggie Hassan also asked people to drive carefully.

“I strongly encourage all New Hampshire residents to exercise the common sense that Granite Staters are known for, follow all traffic and safety alerts, and drive safely on the roads,” Hassan said.

Temperatures in the Lawrence area today weren’t expected to get warmer than 10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Tonight’s low is expected to dip to 8 degrees below zero with a wind chill as low as -19.

“By all accounts, this is the coldest snow storm since the blizzard of 2005,” said Ryan Breton, a meteorology student at Penn State who runs the AtkinsonWeather.com site.

“In January of 2005, the temperature in Lawrence got down to 8 degrees as of 7 p.m. The temperature in Lawrence (last night) was down to 3,” he said.

“This has been a very interesting storm that has been driven by arctic air in northern New England that has drained into northern Mass. and southern New Hampshire. If we didn’t have cold air, the storm would not be impressive at all. It’s the arctic air that’s driven the storm,” he said.

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