According to the weather service, the storm could drop 1 to 3 feet of snow on the region, with snow drifts up to 5 feet. The storm is also forecast to bring wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour near the coast, with possible hurricane-force winds (74 mph) on Cape Cod and the Islands.
In its Thursday 4 p.m. alert, the weather service called it a “potentially historic winter storm.”
The blizzard warnings are in effect from 6 a.m. Friday to 1 p.m. Saturday. The snow is expected to become heavy Friday afternoon, with the heaviest snowfall (rates of 2-3 inches per hour) falling Friday night into Saturday.
The weather service warned of “dangerous” travel and said “damage to trees and structures, along with scattered power outages, are anticipated.” Moderate to major coastal flooding is also expected early Saturday, especially south of Boston, according to the weather service.
State and local officials on Thursday warned Massachusetts residents to be ready for the storm, and dozens of school districts, including Boston, cancelled classes for Friday.
In a late afternoon news conference, Gov. Deval Patrick urged all residents to stay off roads after noon Friday, and he announced that the MBTA and the commuter rail would shut down at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
“If I have to order that the roads be cleared, I will,” Patrick said. “But, you know, in the past when we’ve asked people to follow this advice they’ve done so without it having to be an order.”
He also asked private-sector employers to have workers stay home Friday, and encouraged all school districts to cancel classes.
Peter Judge, with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said power outages are likely and people should get supplies before the storm hits.
“What you would need if your family were isolated without power, unable to get to the store because of the snow on the roads, over the next, you know, couple of days,” Judge said.
In Boston, a snow emergency and parking ban will go into effect at noon on Friday. Some 51 private and city-owned parking lots will be open for the storm’s duration at discounted rates.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said up to 600 plows will be out in force to clear city streets.
He’s asked non-essential staff to stay home and urged employers to let workers telecommute.
Power companies say they’ve brought in extra crews to deal with potential outages.
“We have one National Grid employee stationed in each of the 172 communities that we serve, working with the local fire and emergency officials, acting as a direct conduit for information,” said National Grid spokesperson Charlotte McCormack.