head custodian "Miss Linda" at the Swallow Union School in Dunstable clears out the closed school. SUN/ David H. Brow
head custodian "Miss Linda" at the Swallow Union School in Dunstable clears out the closed school. SUN/ David H. Brow (David H. Brow)

LOWELL -- It's not nasty quite yet, but authorities are telling residents to get inside before driving becomes brutal.

"The roads are lousy, and they're just going to get more snow covered," said state Trooper Michael Spencer, out of the Andover barracks. "People should stay home today."

Many municipal buildings in Greater Lowell are closing early, state workers are being released at 3 p.m., and Gov. Deval Patrick is encouraging private employers to send workers home, too.

Patrick said that 1,600 pieces of equipment are on state highways and he has authorized the National Guard to help out as needed.

Pawtucket Falls in Lowell on the Merrimack River, as snow begins to cover the ice
Pawtucket Falls in Lowell on the Merrimack River, as snow begins to cover the ice (SUN/SAMANTHA ALLEN)

The roads have been slippery, and it's just going to get worse.

All of the Lowell Department of Public Works trucks are out on the roads, which have about two inches on them by 12:30 p.m. Lowell police said that not many accidents have been reported so far on the "slippery roads," but police recommend that residents stay in today.

Driving from upper Belvidere in Lowell this morning, Route 38 was OK. Plows were just beginning to get to the side roads, which remain slippery. The Lord Overpass ramps were slippery and slushy.

Parking will be banned from all city streets starting at 2 p.m. on Thursday, according to the Lowell City Manager's office.

The Police Department declared the snow emergency parking ban at 8 a.m. on Thursday. The ban goes into effect at 2 p.m.

Cars parked in violation of the ban are subject to towing. The car's owner would be subject to the towing fee, and the car would also receive a parking violation ticket.

There will be free parking for city residents who do not have access to off-street parking. Residents can park at the George Ayotte Parking Facility, 11 Post Office Square, or the Edward Early Jr. Garage, 135 Middlesex St.

If a special event is scheduled at or near the George Ayotte Parking Facility, event rates will apply.

Once the snow emergency parking ban is lifted, any residents that have parked in the George Ayotte Parking Facility or the Edward Early Jr. Garage will have two hours to remove their cars from either facility. Vehicles not removed within two hours will be assessed a fee from that time until the vehicle is removed.

On Interstate 495 North and South, traffic was moving at about 40 mph, but that speed will probably drop during the evening commute.

A winter storm warning is in effect through 10 a.m. Friday. About 8 to 10 inches are expected to fall by the end of the storm, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Buttrich.

"The brunt of the storm will come tonight and overnight," she said. "It will be intermittent snow throughout the day, but then the heaviest during this evening and overnight."

Wind speeds on Thursday are expected to be 10 to 15 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Then overnight, she said the wind speeds will be 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph.

Shoveling will be uncomfortable in the bone-chilling conditions. The low tonight will be 5 degrees with a wind chill of -15 degrees. Friday is expected to be a high of 10 degrees with a wind-chill of -15 degrees.

Make sure to bundle up.

It was a "quiet" Thursday morning at Dracut True Value Hardware on Lakeview Avenue, according to store manager Dave Porter.

"We're hoping for an afternoon rush when people get out of work," he said.

The store is sold-out of snowblowers, but there are plenty of shovels and ice melt available, he said.

In Billerica, there's limited time to get supplies at O'Connor True Value Hardware. The store is closing at 3 p.m. because of the storm.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

For continuing coverage of the storm, visit www.lowellsun.com.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.