By Jack Minch
The National Weather Service is forecasting snow today and Friday, along with dangerously cold weather.
"It's going to be cold, cold, cold," said National Weather Service meteorologist Eleanor Vallier-Talbot.
The snow was expected to start falling overnight Wednesday before tapering off this afternoon. But a second system coming up from the south is expected to bring more snow tonight continuing to Friday morning, Vallier-Talbot said.
North Central Massachusetts could get anywhere from 8 to 14 inches, she said.
"You're right on the line from 8 to 10, or 10 to 14 inches," Vallier-Talbot said.
Most of the snow is expected to be over eastern Massachusetts and be exacerbated by on-shore winds. Today's high temperatures are only expected to reach the mid-teens.
"Thursday night you might be flirting with zero but it looks like it will stay just above 2 to 4 degrees or maybe as warm as 5," Vallier-Talbot said. The wind-chill temperature could reach minus-10 to minus-15 degrees.
Friday's highs will struggle to get out of the single digits, and the overnight temperature could sink as low as minus-8 to minus-13 degrees once clouds clear away and radiant cooling begins. The wind chill could reach minus-20 degrees in North Central Massachusetts.
"It's the coldest air mass we've had in a couple years," Vallier-Talbot said.
Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong said the city will open shelters only if there are power outages.
"Otherwise, I do not want people on the roads," she said in a text message Wednesday. "If people need emergency fuel assistance or shelters, we will direct them to the appropriate places year-round."
Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said he will meet with his staff today to discuss the snow and cold temperatures.
"We may need to open a small shelter," he said, in a text message.
Jim Beauregard, of Fitchburg, was with his friend Katie Page, of Lunenburg, at Aubuchon Hardware on Massachusetts Avenue in Lunenburg New Year's Day looking for ice melt.
He normally doesn't mind dealing with snow because he has a snow blower but commuting in it can be a tough proposition, Beauregard said.
"I work in Boston, so that's all I'm scared about -- getting in," he said.
Page works an overnight shift, so traffic isn't bad when she's on the road.
Aubuchon manager Bob Alden said he had a run on ice melt after recent rain, so he's making a special order into the Westminster warehouse today.
"It's the ice melt every day this week," Alden said. "After the rain and ice we got, it's been non-stop ice melt."
There are plenty of shovels still in stock ranging from $11 to $33, he said.
Joe Morrell, of Lunenburg, was in the store Wednesday and picked up a bag of rock salt to treat his driveway. Winter has lost its charm, he said.
"I used to, but I don't like it anymore," Morrell said. "I don't like the cold and I don't like the weather."
After the Arctic air shifts east, a low-pressure system could settle into the region and bring rain, Vallier-Talbot said.
The new snow pack could keep the air cold enough Sunday night where precipitation could start as snow before turning to freezing rain and sleet.
"The plan is now it should go to rain Monday but we're not sure because it could track in a different direction," Vallier-Talbot said.
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