Sun Staff Report There weren't as many power outages, and the damage wasn't as great, but the storm-weary Greater Lowell area was buried with more than 20 inches of snow in some areas Tuesday following the third nor' easter to strike in two weeks.
Snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour fell as the storm began to ramp up in the afternoon, with expectations of the storm beginning to taper off into the evening hours.
By 7 p.m., North Chelmsford had 22.7 inches, the highest local total recorded, according to the National Weather Service.
Unlike last week's heavy, wet snow that pulled down trees and power lines, the consistency of the snow this time around was been drier and fluffier, preventing similar damage and power outage issues across the region.
But local crews were having enough trouble keeping up with the vast snowfall that some school districts were already canceling Wednesday classes on Tuesday night.
According to Lowell Fire Chief Jeff Winward, in the midst of the last Thursday's nor'easter, the Fire Department responded to 337 calls in a 24-hour period for mostly downed wires.
"Today things have been much quieter," Winward said around 5 p.m. "So far."
Even as the storm intensified in the afternoon, Chelmsford officials said they responded to few calls for service from residents.
"Our call volume has remained low today, as it appears most businesses are closed and there are few cars on the roads," Chelmsford Fire Chief Gary Ryan said about 3:20 p.m. Tuesday.
As of 3 p.m., Chelmsford had only 27 reported power outages, mostly in the area of Turnpike and Ansie roads, Ryan said. That number decreased to 19 as of 8 p.m., according to the National Grid website.
A few Tyngsboro residents reported losing power Tuesday morning on the Facebook group, Tyngsboro Talk - and then having it restored. School Committee member Amy Pozerski, who lives on the west side of Tyngsboro, said she lost power around 6:15 a.m. Tuesday.
"The instant thought was, 'How long is it going to be this time?'" Pozerski said. Her power returned two hours later.
"I think there should be a big shout-out to the guys working on the ground, working on the lines," she said. "We were out for three days, but they worked nonstop to get us back on."
By 8 p.m., Tewksbury still had 246 customers without power, but most other towns had fewer than a dozen. Chelmsford Deputy Police Chief Dan Ahern said the snow cover has made the roads slippery but the only accidents were two in the morning. Both were minor and no one was injured, he said.
"DPW crews are hard at work trying to stay ahead of the accumulation," Ahern said in the afternoon. "Very light traffic is aiding that effort. Parking ban remains in effect and we are asking for everyone's continued cooperation as we work to make the roads safe."
Because this storm came so quickly after the last, there are still areas where the Chelmsford Department of Public Works crews were unable to clear fallen branches from the sides of roadways, Ahern said. This made plowing more difficult in those areas, but progress was being made, he said.
Earlier in the day, trouble struck emergency workers in Dracut, when a Department of Public Works snowplow snagged low-hanging wires on Kevin Road, pulling them down onto the truck.
Dracut firefighters and National Grid workers came to the scene to deal with the wires that draped over the truck. Roughly 45 minutes later, the situation was remedied. No injuries or major damage was reported, according to Dracut DPW Director Ed Patenaude.
Aside from that, Tuesday offered minimal problems compared to last week's storm, Patenaude said. Dracut DPW staff and contractors had salt trucks on the road at 4 a.m. when the storm slammed into the area, and plow trucks were on the roads around 8:30 a.m.
"We're keeping up with it," Patenaude said around 3 p.m. "The roads are passable and everything is going good." Billerica DPW Foreman Mike Haines said Tuesday afternoon crews had been working around the clock, starting plowing shortly after midnight.
"Oh my goodness. Tired. Tired," Haines said Tuesday afternoon. "It's been crazy going back to last week."
About 30 pieces of equipment were on the roads early in the day in Littleton, plowing snow and treating roads to prevent ice, town officials said.
Like much of the area, Littleton town offices and schools were closed all day. Other town duties were also canceled due to the storm.
"We have canceled both trash and recycling pickup due to the storm," said Assistant Town Manager Eric Heideman. "Both vendors will be operating on a one-day delay the remainder of the week. Our highway superintendent has informed me that we currently have 42 pieces of equipment out on the road in Westford conducting snow removal operations."
As the storm rolled along into the Tuesday evening hours, increased reports of low-hanging and downed wires and branches streamed over the emergency radio broadcast. Also reports of snowplows side-swiping a car and knocking out a mailbox.
Bedford police Sgt. Pat Towle reported a MBTA bus getting stuck on Springs Road shortly before 5 p.m. after the driver attempted to turn the bus around in a residential driveway. No passengers were on board, and the driver was uninjured, though the road was closed briefly.
Winward pointed out the Lowell Fire Department would monitor conditions into the night with National Grid officials having extra crews in the area to assist if needed.
"Tomorrow firefighters will be out shoveling hydrants," Winward said. "If residents are able, please shovel out the hydrant nearest your house. We have over 2,200 hydrants in the city. Also, please clear the sidewalk in front of your house."
National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson said shortly after 5 p.m. the storm was expected to taper off Tuesday night with scattered snow showers moving into the area.
Snow squalls - brief periods of snow showers that can quickly accumulate one to two inches and could reduce visibility to near zero - are expected to impact the area Wednesday with a possible high of 40 degrees.
Scattered flurries are anticipated Thursday and Friday with temperatures in the 30s before it turns dry and cold for the weekend.
Sun staff reporters Aaron Curtis, Amaris Castillo, Rick Sobey, Alana Melanson and Chris Lisinski contributed to this report.