Anywhere 6 inches to a foot of snow could blanket the area when the system finally pushes out sometime early Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The first flakes of what is expected to be major winter storm began falling in the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area about 10 a.m. this morning.

Anywhere 6 inches to a foot of snow could blanket the area when the system finally pushes out sometime early Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

By noon, at least 18 weather-related accidents were reported in New Castle County, although Middletown remained accident free, according to police.

Road conditions are expected to deteriorate as the storm continues throughout the day. The heaviest snowfall was expected after 2 p.m. when accumulation was expected to reach an inch to 2 inches per hour.

"We strongly encourage drivers who do not need to travel to delay or refrain from going on the roads to give DelDOT plows time and ability to work," Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement released just after 11 a.m. "If you don't need to be driving, stay home until roads are cleared."

DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff said more than 400 pieces of equipment would be plowing, applying salt and providing support to emergency personnel across the state during the storm.

Nearly all Delaware roads were pretreated with brine Monday to keep them as clear as possible.

Due to the potentially hazardous conditions, Markell announced this morning that all state offices will be closed at noon today. Non-essential employees were directed to stay home.

Middletown and Townsend town officials also announced this morning that they would be closing their offices at noon.

Odessa town offices close at noon every Tuesday.

The forecast also convinced school officials early Tuesday morning to announce half days for students in the Appoquinimink School District and at MOT Charter School.

St. Anne's Episcopal School in Middletown cancelled school altogether, while St. Georges Technical High School was already scheduled to be closed today for inservice.

After-school activities at all M.O.T.-area schools also were cancelled today.

No announcements had been made by noon regarding school closures Wednesday.

The National Weather Service yesterday issued a Winter Storm Warning that took effect at 10 a.m. today and will continue until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

A Wind Chill Advisory also is in effect until 11 a.m. Wednesday.
A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chills. This will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.

The American Red Cross issued these safety tips for dealing with the storm:

Wear layers of lightweight clothing. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.After the storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.Don't forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can't come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and they have access to unfrozen water.Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.