Slow down: It's slippery out there

Sean D. Elliot/The Day Sledders enjoy the hill on the first hole at the Norwich Municipal Golf Course Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010.

A storm moving up the East Coast dumped less snow than expected in southern New England by mid-afternoon Wednesday, but forecasters say it will get worse.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the islands, prompting school closings and airline cancellations.

Between 8 and 12 inches of snow were expected across southern New England, according to the weather service in Taunton, Mass. But totals could vary by area, said meteorologist Bill Simpson.

"It's less than expected and will intensify after sunset when we cool down a degree or two," Simpson said mid-afternoon Wednesday. "It can vary from upwards of a foot in Bridgeport and further north it will be lesser amounts. A lot less. The difference between rain and snow can be 1 degree."

The snow in Connecticut was still light by mid-afternoon, which was encouraging to Connecticut Light & Power. Only scattered outages were reported.

"We're in good shape," spokesman Mitch Gross said.

Locally, police and emergency crews have spent a portion of the afternoon responding to multiple crashes.

Route 85 was closed near the entrance ramps to I-395 as emergency crews attend to an accident involving two cars and a dump truck. Four people were taken to the hospital for injuries that did not appear life-threatening, fire officials said.

The accident occurred near the exit to the Waterford town garage. Ron Cusano, director of public works, said no town vehicles were involved.

Groton Town police said Route 184 from the Walmart to the Windsor Hotel was temporarily closed earlier this afternoon after multiple car accidents were reported in the area. No serious injuries were reported, police said.

High Street in Westerly was reopened at about 1:30 p.m. after it was shut down while police responded to a car that drove under a box truck. The occupants of the vehicle were able to get out of the car, but minor injuries were reported.

In Montville, a car drove into a tree on the southbound off-ramp on Interstate 395 at Exit 79. It is uncertain if injuries were reported.

Southern New England braced for the worst Wednesday morning. In anticipating the storm, Connecticut Department of Transportation workers pretreated bridges and some roads with a salt brine solution to speed melting and removal.

Connecticut coordinated the release of state and private workers to avoid commuting problems in Hartford.

Massachusetts officials gave some workers the day off and sent others home early, and encouraged private employers to do the same. Rhode Island government offices and courts stayed open, but jurors were told not to report to duty.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for Logan Airport in Boston, said airlines delayed or canceled flights all day. There's a slight cause for optimism, with reduced forecasts for snow totals at 5 inches from 8 with the storm expected to arrive around 4 p.m., he said.

John Wallace, a spokesman for Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., said 15 planes started the day at the airport Wednesday morning, down from 45 typically.

Dozens of flights arriving at or departing from T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., were canceled, according to the airport's Web site.

The weather service said the storm will veer into the Atlantic Ocean south of Maine and not have much of an impact on northern New England.

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