Snow, cold snap could snarl Boston commutes this week

Traffic sits still entering the Ted Williams Tunnel this morning, Thursday, March 8, 2018, as accumulating snow and a car fire inside the tunnel slowed the commute. Staff photo by Mark Garfinkel

Boston commuters will get hit with a one-two punch of the first snow and the first deep freeze on the season in back-to-back commutes on Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning, meteorologists warned on Monday.

“This will be a quick-hitting situation where snow comes in Tuesday (afternoon) and depending on how the roads are treated, anything wet will freeze as a cold front comes in overnight,” said Matthew Belk, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norton.

Belk cautioned commuters to “take it slow” when they encounter Tuesday’s snow and Wednesday’s extreme cold.

“What might start out wet could end up icy,” Belk said.

Reports predict a dusting of snow of up to 1 inch across much of Massachusetts on Tuesday afternoon before giving way to freezing rain and below-freezing temperatures overnight into Wednesday. Temperatures could be as low as 20 degrees Wednesday morning, but Belk said a wind chill could feel more like single digits — wind gusts could reach 38 mph, the Weather Service reported.

The weather system has already been wreaking havoc across the Midwest, where more than 950 flights were canceled at Chicago’s airports on Monday as the system swept through with snow and icy conditions.

“This is an air mass that’s more typical for the middle of January than mid-November,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. “It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year (and) it could break records all over the region.”

It’s true here in Boston, where Belk said the maximum high temperature on Wednesday — forecasted at 31 degrees — could set a record for cold. The previous lowest maximum temperature recorded for Wednesday’s date was 36 degrees, in 1874, Belk said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.