By Brian Messenger
---- — The first significant snowfall in the Merrimack Valley this winter started early yesterday evening and quickly coated roadways, slowing traffic and causing a series of minor accidents across the region.
While Southern New Hampshire saw about a half foot of snow Thursday, greater Lawrence was largely spared with heavy rain. Yesterday’s forecast, however, called for snow in both states — with accumulation between 4 and 8 inches.
“It’s going to vary tremendously” from community to community, said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Simpson said the interior of southeastern Massachusetts projected to be the hardest hit area, with 6 to 10 inches in the forecast. Lighter, fluffier snow was falling in western portions of the state last night, with coastal regions seeing heavier snow, he said.
Tim Maclean, an employee at Shoe City Hardware Co. in Haverhill, said the season’s first promise of snow triggered a batch of last-minute shoppers yesterday looking for shovels and ice melt.
“It’s still drawing people out,” said Maclean. “They’re a little anxious. They don’t want to be caught.”
Snow began falling in North Andover around 5 p.m. By 10 p.m., major area roadways were coated and plows worked to keep up.
“Some minor accidents here and there — minor fender-benders so far,” said Methuen police Lt. Michael Wnek.
A winter storm warning was in effect across the region until 7 this morning
Today’s forecast for the Lawrence area calls for clouds in the morning before becoming partly sunny, with highs in the upper 20s. Winds are expected at 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph and increasing to 45 mph in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The forecast today for interior Rockingham County, including Salem and Derry, is cloudy with a chance of snow in the morning, highs in the upper 20s and winds at 15 to 20 mph.
The forecast for New Year’s Eve night in both regions is cloudy with temperatures in the mid-to-low 20s. Light winds are expected, but with gusts picking up at 30 mph in the evening in the Merrimack Valley.
“It’s going to be chilly,” said Simpson.