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Early Snow Blankets Great Lakes States

Weather: Up to 2 1/2 feet leave region looking like a Christmas card. Thousands of people remain without power, 9 traffic fatalities reported.

November 12, 1996| From Associated Press

CLEVELAND — A storm made the Great Lakes states look like a Christmas card just 11 days past Halloween, leaving up to 2 1/2 feet of snow Monday and catching some people off guard without shovels or other winter survival tools.

Leaves weren't off all the trees yet, and sagging limbs combined with the heavy, wet snow to drag down power lines over the weekend. Tens of thousands of people were still without electricity Monday.

Although Snow Belt motorists have to cope with snow and ice every winter, many weren't prepared for this storm. One traffic death in Ohio was blamed on snowy roads, and Wisconsin reported eight weather-related highway fatalities.

The "lake effect" storm, feeding on moisture from the Great Lakes, dumped more than 2 feet of snow on northeastern Ohio beginning Saturday. Chardon, about 20 miles east of Cleveland, had 2 1/2 feet by noon Monday.

Flakes continued falling in Cleveland, and forecasters said an additional 20 inches were possible in parts of northeastern Ohio by this morning.

Munising, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, had 27 inches by midday, and Hurley, Wis., had 29 inches. At the eastern end of Lake Ontario, up to 18 inches fell on northern New York.

"It is nice to have it for Christmas, but not now," said 80-year-old Delia Johnson, looking out her window in Hurley, where nearly 25 feet of snow fell last winter and wasn't all gone until May.

"It seems like every year it either gets earlier or I'm getting older. I'm not sure which," said Janelle Bettinger at the Silver Mine Restaurant in Sandy Creek, N.Y.

"I don't ever remember seeing things like this until about January," said Donna Asbury of Proctorville, Ohio, after a slow commute to work in Barboursville, W.Va.

City crews in Erie, Pa,. which had more than 20 inches by Monday, had to stop their autumn leaf pickups so they could outfit their trucks with plows.

"We often get snow this time of year, but any time you get the first significant amount of snowfall it creates a mood of excitement among people," said meteorologist Bob Reed in Erie.

Other residents were more blase.

"Well, it's not pleasant, especially since it's a bit early, but it's Cleveland," city resident Roger Moore said with a shrug.

It is too early to tell how bad conditions will get this winter, forecasters said, but this much snow this early has caught the attention of people.

"What worries me the most is that it probably means we'll have a really bad winter," said Kim Warren, 38, of Cleveland, as she trudged along a snow-covered sidewalk.

"We are selling out of all kinds of winter-related items," said Lois Stiverson, manager of Bostwick's True Value Hardware in Chardon, east of Cleveland.

"That includes snow shovels, lamp oil and wicks, batteries, snow blowers, kerosene heaters, and if we had them, we could sell lots of generators," she said.

About 62,000 customers of Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. remained without power Monday in northeastern Ohio. On Sunday, 180,000 customers lacked power.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland does not have records on the earliest, heaviest snowfalls, said meteorologist Daron Boyce. But he said the most snow for the month of November in Cleveland was 22 inches in 1950.

About 30 miles to the east, the roof of the Faith Baptist Church in Perry Township collapsed under the weight of the snow. No one was inside at the time.

For some people, the early demonstration of winter weather offered a bright side.

"I think it's beautiful," 27-year-old Evelyn Franko said. "And it's just typical Cleveland for it to get here early and stay late."

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