Northeastern US Hit by Second Blizzard in As Many Weeks
Storm rakes East; more than 1 million in the dark
The Associated Press, Feb. 26, 2010
HAMPTON, N.H. - A strong-willed winter storm that began with a whimper parked itself Friday over the Northeast, bringing hurricane-force winds, flooding and more than 2 feet of snow as it cut power to more than a million homes and businesses.
Schools were canceled as far west as Cleveland and roads closed as far south as West Virginia as the slow-moving storm spent a second day parked over the region.
The storm brought a wide array of calamity over a broad area after getting a slow start Thursday, when snow began falling in the Philadelphia region around dawn but didn't start sticking to the ground until dusk.
It turned out that snow — 31 inches in Monroe, N.Y. — was only part of the story. In the parts of coastal New England where winds caused havoc, the precipitation mostly came as rain.
Power failures were so severe and widespread in New Hampshire — 330,000 customers in the dark in a state of 1.3 million people — that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator.
In Kennebunkport, Maine, a loud boom from a transformer early Friday awoke Michael Wiewel and cut power to his home. A short time later, a 50-foot poplar crashed on his roof above the bed where he and his wife slept.
"It sounded like a bomb going off," he said.
Throughout the area, crews were cutting fallen trees that littered yards and pounded roofs. Power lines dangled free.
The highest wind reported was 91 mph in Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts hit 60 mph or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York's Long Island and Massachusetts.
In the coastal town of Hampton, the unoccupied Surf Hotel caught fire, and the howling winds quickly spread the blaze to the rest of the block. Five wood-frame buildings, including an arcade and a restaurant, burned. The cause was unknown.
To the north in Maine, waves crashing ashore at high tide Friday morning turned beachfront streets into rivers in Saco, where storms have claimed several homes over the years.
"Felt like the walls were coming in on the house, and the windows were rattling, and the trees were cracking. It was pretty impressive," said Mark Breton, who rode out the storm in his house a few blocks from the beach.
Utility officials said in New Hampshire said it would take days before everyone's lights flickered back on.
At the peak of the outages early Friday, there were 260,000 customers without power in Connecticut, and 220,000 customers in New York, mostly in the Hudson Valley north of New York City. There were 140,000 in Maine, 100,000 in Massachusetts, 25,000 in Vermont, and 11,000 in New Jersey. Those numbers began falling Friday as crews got to work, in some places contending with toppled trees and deep snow that made it difficult to move around.
The weather also snarled traffic. A tractor-trailer jackknifed and as many as 20 trucks piled up on a mile of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, forcing closure of a 60-mile stretch in the hills of central Pennsylvania. Two injuries were reported.
Heavy snow also closed 30 miles of Interstate 84 in New York state. Snow and low visibility closed several mountain roads in West Virginia.
In Union Dale, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains, 70 students and chaperones from Calvary Christian Academy in Philadelphia stayed at a Red Cross shelter after their buses got stuck in 4-foot snow drifts as they returned from a ski trip.
They weren't expected to get home until Saturday. In the meantime, they've been helped by volunteers who provided cots and blankets for sleeping and meals including hot dogs, pizza and pancakes.
"It's amazing how much they cared for us," said 17-year-old Susan Henley, of Willow Grove.
In New York City, 17 inches of snow had fallen before dawn and more was expected. A man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park, one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.
The weather was severe enough that the city's public schools closed for only the fourth snow day in the last six years.
Most flights were canceled for the day at the three New York-area airports. But by late morning, things began clearing up to the south, with three of Philadelphia International Airport's four runways open.
Much of the region, particularly Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, only recently finished cleaning up from a pair of storms a few weeks ago.
Even before snow began falling Thursday, Philadelphia and Atlantic City had experienced their snowiest winters on record. This time, those areas had 4 to 5 inches by midmorning Friday.
Across upstate New York and New England, it had been an unusually forgiving winter until this week.
For parts of the region, including western Vermont, snow remains in the forecast through Monday.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Snow in Northeast, rain pounds New England
'Snowicane' disrupts hundreds of flights, cuts power to tens of thousands
The Associated Press, Feb. 25, 2010
PHILADELPHIA - A slow-moving winter storm packing heavy, wet snow and potentially flooding rain spread over the Northeast on Thursday, disrupting air traffic and closing schools. Utility companies braced for possible widespread power outages overnight due to high winds and toppled trees.
The strongest wind and heaviest snow was forecast for late Thursday and early Friday, with a foot or more of snow and high winds expected from southeastern Pennsylvania, into New Jersey and New York and up to parts of New England.
Parts of western Maine received nearly a foot a snow Thursday, while Philadelphia received a dusting. About 4 inches of snow fell in New York City, where a man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park — one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.
In parts of southern and mid-coastal Maine, more than 3 inches of rain had fallen and forecasters say some areas could get more than 7 inches. The Presumpscot River in Westbrook was expected to crest at 9 feet over flood stage by Friday afternoon. The river in the flood-prone New Hampshire town of Goffstown was nearing flood stage and residents were told to prepare for possible evacuation.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at major East Coast airports.
Blast of winter
The latest blast of winter was expected to linger more than 24 hours, meaning more headaches Friday. More snow is predicted for much of the region Saturday, too.
The National Weather Service put much of the East Coast under wind advisories and warnings until 7 a.m. Friday. The agency warned that winds could blow steadily between 20 and 30 mph in some areas, with gusts of 55 mph or higher in coastal and mountainous areas.
Even coastal New England, which was seeing rain but nothing like the 18 inches of snow expected in some parts of northern New Jersey and upstate New York, was under coastal flood watches.
While forecasters can predict the snow totals and what that will mean — slippery roads, a snow day for the kids — it's trickier to know whether winds might create havoc.
"Your tree may fall down; your neighbor's may not," said Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, a private forecasting company in State College, Pa.
She said dense, wet snow weighing down trees would make it more likely for strong winds to knock them down. And power will probably be hardest to restore in areas where heavy snow keeps repair crews at bay.
In upstate New York, a storm that hit the area with up to 2 feet of snow Wednesday left some 150,000 homes and businesses without power. About 49,000 utility customers remained without power late Thursday, most in the Hudson Valley.
Nearly 2,000 utility customers in New Jersey were without electricity Thursday afternoon as state was hit by its fourth major storm of the winter.
The fifth of an inch of snow that fell in Pittsburgh by early afternoon Thursday was enough to break the city's record for the snowiest month since record keeping began in 1884.
In snow-weary Philadelphia, this winter had set a seasonal record of more than 70 inches of snow even before the first flakes fell. The city and New Jersey had only recently finished cleaning up from the two blizzards that deposited more than 3 feet of snow a few weeks ago.
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights across the Northeast. Officials at Philadelphia International Airport said nearly one-fifth of the flights scheduled there for the day had been scratched. The prediction of strong winds was the main reason, said airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica.
Thousands of schools across the region either closed or let out early. New York State Police attributed two traffic deaths to the weather.
In Allentown, Pa., 52-year-old Jim Yourgal put on knee-high snow boots and trudged three miles to his job as a valet at an orthopedic center. He figured he wouldn't be driving home in a foot of snow. His dedication was no big deal, he said.
"What else am I going to do, read a book at home? I can do that on the weekend," he said.
NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.