NOW THAT’S A WORKOUT: Dave Mansfield, of Hudson, N.H., general manager of Choice Fitness in Chelmsford Town Center, helps customer Max Regan of
NOW THAT'S A WORKOUT: Dave Mansfield, of Hudson, N.H., general manager of Choice Fitness in Chelmsford Town Center, helps customer Max Regan of Lowell get out of his parking space. See video and a slide show from Tuesday's storm at lowellsun.com. SUN photos /Julia Malakie

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CHELMSFORD -- Hazardous, white-out conditions blanketed the region, state and New England Tuesday as a late-winter nor'easter swept through, stranding vehicles in the snow, causing accidents and downing trees which led to sporadic power outages.

Snow was falling at a rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour Tuesday afternoon, with wind gusts up to 50 mph, leading to a blizzard warning from the National Weather Service. Meteorologists predicted 12 to 18 inches of snow will have fallen in Greater Lowell when all was said and done.

Shortly before 4 p.m., part of the gold-plated roof of St. George Greek Orthodox Church at 44 Princeton Boulevard in Lowell blew off, according to Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward. There were no reported injuries and no major structural damage.

Part of the gold-plated roof of St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Princeton Boulevard in Lowell blew off during the storm.	sun/robert millsSun staff
Part of the gold-plated roof of St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Princeton Boulevard in Lowell blew off during the storm. sun/robert mills

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"I've lived here my whole life, and this is just awful," said Michelle Parker, clearing her car around 1 p.m., as snow whipped around in the parking lot at Chelmsford's Hannaford Supermarket.

"This hurts," she added. It was her first day back at work at Hannaford after vacationing in Vermont.

On the other side of Chelmsford, a car was stuck in the parking lot at Choice Fitness. The gym's general manager, Dave Mansfield, had to give the car a push to free it from the snow.

"Amazing what a little push will do," Mansfield said after freeing the car, driven by one of the gym rats who ventured out during the storm.

It was a busy morning at the gym, Mansfield said. He closed Choice Fitness at 1 p.m.


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before the height of the storm; when a few members found out upon entering at 12:50 p.m., they sighed.

"Our members are very health conscious, and want to stay on that routine," Mansfield said. "Every storm, people are coming in. It's amazing."

As roads turned slick, accidents were reported throughout Massachusetts.

Tewksbury Fire Engine 3 was struck by a car near 220 North St. just after 10:30 a.m.. Operators of both vehicles suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital.

DRIVEWAY DUTY: Kevin Stone of Billerica makes a second pass on shoveling his driveway on Finnegan’s Path Tuesday.	Sun staff photos can be ordered by
DRIVEWAY DUTY: Kevin Stone of Billerica makes a second pass on shoveling his driveway on Finnegan's Path Tuesday.

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Also, trees and wires fell across the region. In Billerica, police reported that a tree was down in the roadway at 206 Treble Cove Road. The Billerica Department of Public Works tree department was en route to the scene Tuesday afternoon.

In Westford, police shut down Providence Road in the area of Leland Road for a tree and wires down. The Great Road in Bedford was closed between Mudge Way and Fletcher Road because of a downed tree.

But overall, local police and fire departments reported no major incidents as the winds blew and the snow fell.

Chelmsford Fire Chief Gary Ryan said a resident helped him push a disabled vehicle out of the snow on Turnpike Road Tuesday afternoon.

CLEARING THE WAY: A plow on High Street in Billerica clears snow early on.Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
CLEARING THE WAY: A plow on High Street in Billerica clears snow early on.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"Conditions are rapidly deteriorating with strong winds, cold temperatures, and poor visibility," Ryan said about 2:30 p.m.

A tree that was blown over on Bridge Street in Chelmsford struck the electric meter, but did not cause major structural damage, according to Ryan. Firefighters stood by at that home as they awaited a building inspector to evaluate the damage.

Billerica police, like several other departments in the area, reported few issues, but said they were thankful that residents seemed to be heeding advice that they stay off the roads, which helped immensely.

"It's a ghost town," said a police commander in Billerica.

Tewksbury Lt.

FROZEN WATER: Sculptor Mico Kaufman’s "Water" of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, at Tewksbury Town Hall was only partially covered early in
FROZEN WATER: Sculptor Mico Kaufman's "Water" of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, at Tewksbury Town Hall was only partially covered early in Tuesday's snowstorm. SUN photos/Julia Malakie

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James McKenna said a large oak tree was blown down near the entrance of Tewksbury Memorial High School, but that it caused little damage and that there were no major incidents in the early afternoon in Tewksbury.

The biggest issue of the afternoon seemed to be power outages, with large outages striking Lowell, Chelmsford and Billerica, and east Dracut.

An outage affecting 1,239 customers struck the area around Riverneck Road and Gorham Street on the Lowell/Chelmsford line about 2 p.m. Another outage impacting 847 customers struck Billerica in the area between the Middlesex Turnpike, Route 4, and Treble Cove Road, according to National Grid. 

National Grid also reported 408 customers without power in Tewksbury, and 108 without power in Dracut, though those outages did not appear to be centralized in just one location.

There were also smaller scattered outages across the state and region.

The City of Lowell's Emergency Operations Center was up and running and expected to remain open through the night, according to Winward, the fire chief.

Winward said there were reports of downed wires and several minor crashes, but that otherwise things were mostly going well in the early afternoon.

"Overall, so far it's been quiet," Winward said. "People have been heeding our warnings and staying off the streets."

Winward said personnel in the EOC were using official city Twitter accounts to send out updates on incidents and issues around the city.

Gov. Charlie Baker said all state police barracks were reporting very light traffic and no serious accidents as of Tuesday afternoon, and thanked people for mostly staying off the roads.

"That's good news so far, and we hope everybody continues to use their head, drive carefully if they have to go out, but most of all, we hope you can find a way to stay home" he said.

Baker urged drivers not to crowd the plows. He said the state and its contractors had 3,000 trucks and pieces of equipment out treating roads and clearing snow. State police also had an additional 200 patrols out, Baker said.

Power outages numbered around 60,000 across the state Tuesday afternoon, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Most towns canceled school, meetings and other activities Tuesday and closed municipal buildings except for those with public safety functions.

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.

Follow Rob Mills on Twitter and Tout @Robert_Mills.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.