MANCHESTER — Thousands of Granite State children had their Thanksgiving holiday extended for at least another day as a slow-moving storm began dropping the season's first major snowfall across the state Sunday afternoon.
The state Emergency Operations Center in Concord opened at 6 a.m. to monitor and support response efforts.
“During the storm, only travel if absolutely necessary,” New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jennifer Harper said. “If you must travel today, remember to clear snow and ice from your vehicle, slow down, allow extra time, and leave plenty of space between vehicles.”
Highway speeds were reduced to 45 mph on major roads throughout the state. There were fewer than 1,000 power outages statewide. No major roads are closed.
Crews treated road surfaces, classes were canceled and cities and towns issued parking bans Sunday as a storm expected to last through Tuesday arrived.
“There’s still a little uncertainty, but we are currently forecasting basically a solid foot for the bottom row of southern New Hampshire counties,” said William Watson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.
By Monday morning, roads were slick in southern New Hampshire, with numerous accidents reported overnight by the state Department of Transportation. WMUR-TV listed almost 770 closings and delays.
Snow had turned to sleet and freezing rain about 6 a.m. in Manchester.
The Monadnock region may be the hardest hit, with amounts well over a foot. Watson said some central areas of the state could see up to six inches; the White Mountains may get only a few inches.
Although the snow was expected to taper off before the morning commute, Watson said a wintry mix is likely to continue, changing back to snow Monday afternoon or evening with the potential to drop several more inches by Tuesday morning.
New Hampshire residents who were hoping to push off winter a little longer were out of luck.
“It’s too early. Too much, too early,” Malcolm Beaulieu of Manchester said as he loaded up sand-filled buckets at the Department of Public Works on Sunday afternoon. “We know winter is coming, but we don’t usually get it this early.”
Beaulieu loaded six buckets of sand into the bed of his pickup to take back to the West Side to sand sidewalks and driveways at his home, an apartment building and his father’s place.
“Thirty-six hours of winter fun; that’s coming way too early,” Beaulieu said.
Public schools in Manchester, Nashua, Keene and the Monadnock Regional School District had canceled Monday classes as of Sunday afternoon; the list is likely to grow as the weather intensifies.
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport was reporting some flight delays Sunday as Thanksgiving travelers tried to make their way home.
The New Hampshire Department of Safety issued an alert Sunday morning urging Granite Staters to stay off the roads Monday if possible. Jennifer Harper, director of New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management, reminded Granite Staters to be prepared for a prolonged storm.
“During the storm, only travel if absolutely necessary,” Harper said in a statement. “If you must travel, remember to clear snow and ice from your vehicle, slow down, allow extra time for travel, and leave plenty of space between vehicles.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Cheshire, Hillsborough, Sullivan, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties from 4 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Tuesday. Residents of Belknap, Grafton and Carroll counties were under a winter weather advisory, with the possibility of snow and/or a wintry mix, Watson said.
Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Pembroke were among the communities to issue a snow emergency Sunday, banning vehicles from parking on local streets from Sunday night until Monday morning.
Eversource, the state’s largest electric utility, advised customers to prepare for possible outages.
“We continue to closely monitor the weather and will have crews in position to be there for our customers if they need us,” Joe Purington, Eversource vice president of electric operations, said in a news release.
“We prepare for storms year-round by designing and hardening our system to withstand severe weather conditions. Just as we prepare for storms like the one moving into the state tonight, we encourage our customers to take steps to stay safe.”