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Archive for Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow, rain pummel Northeast

February 26, 2010

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— 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 from high winds and toppled trees.

The strongest wind and heaviest snow was forecast for late Thursday and early today, with a foot or more of snow and high winds expected in parts of Pennsylvania, into New Jersey and New York and up to parts of New England.

Parts of western Maine received nearly a foot a snow, while Philadelphia received a dusting.

About 7 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 this 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.

The latest blast of winter was expected to linger more than 24 hours, meaning more headaches today. 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. today.

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.

Vermont had more than 10,000 outages. Nearly 4,900 utility customers in New Jersey were without electricity and there were about 2,000 customers without power throughout Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation banned motorcycles, recreation vehicles and commercial traffic on interstates 380 and 84 — with the exceptions of school buses and tow trucks responding to accidents.

There was also a tractor-trailer ban on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension.

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