With two snowstorms whacking Southern New Hampshire in less than 24 hours, virtually the entire area is shut down today.
By early yesterday afternoon, many schools had sent their students home early. Rockingham Superior Court postponed all hearings today, towns canceled public meetings, and the state Legislature called off all business. Schools canceled classes for today as well.
While the region received close to 6 inches of snow yesterday, a lot more is on the way today.
"You can add about another foot," said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Ekster. "Most of it's going to be snow, but there may be some sleet."
The snow stopped falling last night, but it was to start again before midnight and not stop until late tonight, he said. Today's high temperature is expected to be in the low 20s.
The total snow accumulation for the two-day storm is expected to be about 12 to 18 inches, Ekster said.
If there is sleet, it would start falling this afternoon, the meteorologist said.
Although yesterday's snow was light and fluffy, it wreaked havoc on some local roads, especially Interstate 93.
While most drivers avoided a slippery morning commute since the first snowflakes didn't fall until after 8 a.m., I-93 was transformed into a skating rink by 10 a.m.
As the snowfall became heavier, vehicles started to slide off the highway. Accidents were reported between exits 2 and 5, but there were no serious injuries, state police Sgt. Lawrence Bolduc said.
"We've had a number of minor accidents and quite a few vehicles off the road," he said. "We were very busy in the southern area near Exit 3."
One of those accidents included a car that slid off the road on I-93 south in Salem near Exit 2. The vehicle was upended, its front-end buried in the snow. About the same time, police responded to an accident a short distance away involving a motor home and a pickup truck pulling a camper.
In Atkinson and Derry, school buses full of children slid off the road yesterday afternoon, but no one was hurt, police said.
The Derry bus skidded across South Main Street, blocking the road and requiring it to be shut down for about 45 minutes, police Capt. Vern Thomas said.
The accident in Atkinson occurred on North Broadway, but it was the only storm-related incident in town as of late yesterday afternoon, police Chief Philip Consentino said. A second bus was brought in to take the students home.
"We've been fortunate," he said. "It's terrible out."
Consentino and other local public officials were bracing for the second storm to hit last night and today.
"This is going to be nothing compared to what we are going to get tonight," he said yesterday.
Police in other area towns, including Derry, Londonderry and Plaistow, reported few, if any, accidents yesterday afternoon. But as the day progressed, more accidents occurred across Southern New Hampshire.
Most local school superintendents held off on canceling school for the rest of the day, including Salem.
Superintendent Michael Delahanty said he determined a normal dismissal time would work best after consulting with the town Department of Public Works.
Unlike other school districts, Salem does not have many long, rural roads for students to travel, Delahanty said.
"Our community is more compact, and our DPW gets out there and works very hard to keep things passable and safe," he said.
Although Delahanty suspected schools would be closed today, he wasn't ready to make that call yesterday afternoon.
"There have been times — twice in my career — that I have made a decision based on a forecast, and I was burned those two times and the storm didn't materialize," he said.
In Derry, another snow day means schools will remain in session until at least late June, Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said. The original last day of school was June 14.
Hannon said there are concerns about the amount of snow piling up around schools. The district might bring in trucks to move snow near its warehouse.
"It's been a struggle," she said. "But we are doing the best we can."
In Londonderry, Superintendent Nate Greenberg wasn't worried about another snow day, bringing the total used this winter to five.
"We've budgeted in 10 snow days," he said. "So we're only halfway there."
Staff writers Jillian Jorgensen, Julie Huss and Suzanne Laurent contributed to this report.
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