Grocery stores in the region that were packed first thing yesterday morning were closing early and most retail stores in downtown Newburyport called it quits by mid-day.
The Merrimack Valley Regional Transportation Authority canceled all bus service for today.
But even before conditions worsened, accidents were being reported.
Around 11 a.m. yesterday, not long after the snow began to fall, a woman was extricated from her vehicle after her Honda SUV flipped over and crashed on the Chain Bridge in Amesbury leading into Newburyport.
Amesbury fire Lt. Jim Nolan said responding fire and police officials found the vehicle on its roof at the side of the road. The driver was trapped inside, but Nolan said they were able to rescue her and that she suffered minor injuries only. She was taken to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport for treatment.
Statewide, Gov. Deval Patrick banned vehicle travel on all roads starting at 4 p.m. yesterday and the MBTA ceased operations at 3:30 p.m.
Patrick called the blizzard “a profoundly different kind of storm than we have dealt with” and the projected snowfall rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour would make “safe travel nearly impossible.”
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz said that a similar executive order banning vehicular travel went into effect after the blizzard of ‘78 and said he is unaware of any similar ban since then.
The order was an “outright ban on all roads” with no set time for when it would be lifted. There were exceptions for public utility and health care workers as well as delivery trucks and news media. Schwartz said that the maximum penalty for people who violate the ban is one-year imprisonment.
As of midday yesterday, there were 1,000 National Guard troops, and Patrick said nearly 5,000 would be in place over the course of the weekend. The Department of Transportation had 1,600 pieces of equipment on the roads around noon yesterday, and planned to bring that number up to 4,000 as the storm intensified.