By Bill Kirk
---- — ANDOVER — Snow continues to fall at midday today and isn't expected to slow down until tonight.
"It could reach the 12-inch mark the way things are going now," said Andy Wall, city engineer for Lawrence who is filling in for the vacationing public works director, John Isensee. "It's supposed to continue right through the evening, and by midnight be completely out of here."
Until then, he said, the city has all available city-owned snowplowing apparatus out, along with an additional 20 or so private plows. He estimated that the early part of the storm dropped about 8 inches in Lawrence.
"Basically, the roads are passable now," Wall said. "The roads are pretty much down to wet pavement, with maybe a little snow falling and melting on them."
On the day before the first day of spring, Mother Nature visited the region with a last blast of winter, dropping over a half-foot of snow across the Merrimack Valley by 8 a.m., canceling school and causing traffic problems on highways and back roads. The Weather Channel reports that the snow will slow down through the early part of the afternoon and pick up again later today, not stopping until 8 or 9 tonight.
The early part of the storm caused significant problems on area highways.
State Police reported 15 to 20 accidents on I-93 and 495 today, mostly spinouts into the median or off to the side of the highways, requiring winch-out by a tow truck. Only a couple of people were taken to area hospitals complaining of back and neck pain, according to Trooper Dan O'Brien of the Andover barracks.
The accidents started happening around midnight, and didn't let up until mid-morning, he said. Most of them, about 70 percent, took place on I-93.
Along the northern stretch of I-95 and the northern portion of 495, however, things were a little better. There, only 7 spinouts, mostly on 95, took place during the early part of the storm, according to the dispatcher at the Newbury barracks. No injuries were reported in those accidents.
Bob Sheehan of Sheehan's Towing in Methuen said he was busy all morning but that "the highway is clear as a bell" as of about 1 p.m.
He said most of the cars his tow trucks had to winch out were not badly damaged and he didn't encounter anyone who was injured.
"It quieted down around 9:30 or 10 this morning," he said.
Back roads fared a little worse.
In North Andover, a tree reportedly fell across Route 114, but had been cleared by around 8 a.m. There was a minor accident reported earlier in the morning with no injuries.
In Andover earlier today, there was one minor accident on Route 28 at the 495 exit that required a winch-out, otherwise "things are pretty smooth," said police Lt. Guy. There were no additional accidents reported as of about 8:30 a.m.
In Haverhill, there was one accident at 4 a.m. when a car hit a utility pole on Broadway at Edgewood, police said. One person was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The car was damaged, the pole was not. By around 8:30 a.m., however, additional accidents were being reported throughout the city.
In Methuen, a car went off the road off Lowell Boulevard at Griffin Brook around 5:15 a.m., but there were no injuries and no damage. A number of minor accidents were reported by 8:30 a.m.
In Lawrence, an accident at Prospect and Vine streets was also minor, causing no injuries. There were no other accidents reported.
School officials were taking no chances, canceling classes across the region.
In Methuen, notice went out about 5:30 a.m. that schools were canceled for the day. Methuen school Superintendent Judith Scannell said the last day of school will now be June 26. Originally, the last day was June 18.
Andover, North Andover, Haverhill and Lawrence schools are also shut for the day.