• Mass. gov. in contact with key officials on storm


    BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick was receiving regular updates Thursday about the approaching winter storm and its potential impact on Massachusetts, but had not made any decisions about the state's workforce, a spokeswoman said.

    A blizzard watch was posted by the National Weather Service for portions of the state, with forecasts of up to two feet of snow in some areas and possible hurricane-force winds on Cape Cod.

    Patrick was attending a swearing-in ceremony in Washington for interim U.S. Sen. William "Mo" Cowan on Thursday, but was scheduled to return to the state later in the day and was in close contact with officials monitoring the storm's path.

    One decision the governor must make is whether to keep non-emergency state workers home on Friday or release them early, and whether to recommend that private employers around the state take similar actions.

    The snow is currently forecast to begin falling on Friday morning, picking up in intensity during the afternoon.

    The prospective timing has drawn comparisons with a powerful storm that hit in the afternoon of December 13th, 2007, and paralyzed state highways, turning 30-minute commutes into 3- to 6-hour treks.

    On that day, Patrick advised state employees to leave work no later than 11:30 a.m., and private businesses were encouraged to dismiss their employees early as well.

    Many people, however, apparently waited longer to get on the road and by then, snow was falling at a rate of 1 1/2 inches an hour with virtual white-out conditions. The resulting traffic gridlock made it impossible for plows to clear the roads.

    Some drivers abandoned cars and others waited out the storm at highway rest stops. Many children found themselves trapped for hours on immobilized school buses.

    Patrick himself said it took more than three hours for him to get from the Statehouse to his home in Milton.

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