Lowell resident Alyssa Payson,27, makes her way home on Merrimack Street.  SUN/ David H. Brow
Lowell resident Alyssa Payson,27, makes her way home on Merrimack Street. SUN/ David H. Brow (David H. Brow)

LOWELL - Police around the region are responding to minor accidents and reports of erratic drivers since what is forecast to be 6 to 8 inches of snowfall began coming down in earnest about 4 p.m.

All non-essential state workers were sent home early by State Secretary William Galvin, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Deval Patrick wraps up a trade mission in Asia. Galvin also asked private employers in the greater Boston area to consider releasing employees early.

Most local schools either closed early or canceled all evening activities on Tuesday in preparation for the storm, which the National Weather Service says could drop up to an inch of snow per hour between 4 and 10 p.m.

The snowfall is expected to taper off about 10 p.m.

The snow was expected to reduce visibility to less than a quarter-mile.

Galvin said additional MBTA service would be provided and the Southeast Expressway's HOV lane opened to help ease the afternoon commute.

The weather service said snow could be falling at a rate of one inch per hour during the evening trip home, making driving hazardous.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino also encouraged those in the city to consider using public transportation for their evening commute or consider staying past the evening commute to make it easier for public works crews to plow streets.

Parking bans were in effect in some communities.