By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A man died in Massachusetts on Wednesday while helping his adult son involved in one of scores of accidents around New England caused by an unexpected bout of icy weather, with another 55 vehicles colliding in crashes outside Boston.
Police in Needham, Massachusetts, said a vehicle struck and killed 63-year-old Joseph Flynn while he was trying to help his son free his car stuck on the ice in the suburb about 18 miles (29 km) west of Boston.
"It appears as though the vehicle was sliding on the ice and was unable to stop before striking the victim, pinning him between the two vehicles," the Needham Police Department said in a statement.
North of Boston, some 55 cars were involved in a series of crashes in the suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, with multiple motorists injured, though none seriously, state police said.
It was the start of a forecast whipsaw of weather over 48 hours. Temperatures around Boston are expected to pass 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C) on Wednesday before dropping back below freezing overnight, when a snowstorm is expected to begin.
The National Weather Service was forecasting 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm) of snow in the area on Thursday. Cities through the region including Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, said on Thursday they would be closing schools Thursday due to the storm.
Wednesday's ice, the result of an overnight rainstorm, may have caught commuters off-guard since earlier forecasts had anticipated temperatures would rise above freezing before the snow begins, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.
The result was chaos on roads around Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Photos from the Wakefield area showed vehicles spun at strange angles, blocking the roadway, with emergency responders having trouble maintaining their footing on icy roads.
The Massachusetts State Police had not yet counted the total number of collisions around the state, a dispatcher said.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered a two-hour opening delay for state offices.
"Exercise extreme caution," Baker said, "as driving is very difficult due to icy conditions."
Farther north, all but one lane of a major interstate highway in Maine were closed after a tractor-trailer ran off the road and flipped on its side due to the ice. Work crews were removing its cargo of potatoes before attempting to lift the vehicle off its side, a state police spokesman said.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and James Dalgleish)