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Monster blizzard storms through Northeast

February 09, 2013|By Michael Muskal and Alana Semuels

BOSTON -- Carrying hurricane-force winds, a monstrous blizzard pounded the Northeast on Satur

day, dropping more than two feet of snow in many areas and causing as many as 650,000 homes and businesses to lose power.

Even as snow-clogged roads gave residents no choice but to heed official advice to stay indoors, the storm continued its path from New York City through New England, where snow totals were expected to rise through the morning and could reach up to three feet in some areas.

The National Weather Service was reporting more than 34 inches of snow had fallen on parts of Connecticut by Saturday morning. Portland, Maine, received 29.3 inches, setting a record there. More than 11 inches of snow had fallen in Manhattan’s Central Park, and other areas of New York City were reporting more than a foot of snow.

More than two feet of snow had fallen in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, two of five states that declared a state of emergency, along with New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

New York state reported one death, a 74-year-old man in Poughkeepsie who was killed by a car whose driver had lost control of the vehicle. Three other deaths attributed to storm conditions were reported in Canada.

Winds of more than 75 miles per hour were recorded throughout the area, gusting to more than 80 miles per hour in Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts. The windblown snow produced whiteout conditions, reducing visibility to zero. Those fierce winds hindered cleanup efforts and toppled power lines, cutting off electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes in the region of some 25 million people. More than 400,000 customers were without power Massachusetts alone.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., lost electricity and shut down Friday night during the storm. Authorities said there was no threat to public safety.

More than 5,200 flights have been canceled at major airports including those in New York City and Boston.

Airports were closed on Friday, but John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and the Newark airports were officially reopened early Saturday morning, though traffic was sparse. Logan International Airport in Boston was scheduled to resume operations Saturday afternoon, according to website FlightAware.

The U.S. Postal Service, whose unofficial creed pledges that it will complete its rounds through snow or rain, closed down on Saturday. Earlier this week, the service said it wanted to end Saturday delivery of mail as a cost-saving measure.

“The major winter storm that has brought more than two feet of snow [and] strong winds across parts of the Northeast and New England continues to impact the region Saturday morning,” the National Weather Service said Saturday morning. “Heavy snow, along with strong wind gusts, are expected to continue across much of New England early Saturday morning, before beginning to slowly taper off from west to east later in the morning and into the afternoon.”

The region remained under a blizzard warning Saturday morning and residents in low-lying coastal areas, some of which were still feeling the effects of Superstorm Sandy last fall, were told to be wary of possible flooding as winds and tides conspired to push water ashore.

Some towns along the Massachusetts coast were being told to evacuate. Residents in the New Jersey towns of Brick Township and Toms River, both crippled by Sandy, were also urged to leave.

In Boston, officials reported 21.8 inches of snow as of Saturday morning, putting the storm in the running to pass the record of 27.6 inches in 2003. Wind gusts of 76 miles per hour were reported at Logan.

Also hard hit was Connecticut, where as much as 34 inches of snow was reported in Hamden. Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered all roads closed statewide early Saturday.

“It's critical right now that residents stay off the roads, so that our plows can continue their efforts to clear our streets and highways,” Malloy stated. “This is a record-setting storm. It's going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process. Unless you face an emergency, please stay put.”

Police in New York say hundreds of cars have gotten stuck on the Long Island Expressway because of the blizzard conditions and dozens of disabled motorists are still on the road. The LIE and Sunrise Highway are both closed in Suffolk County, where snowfall of up to 28 inches was reported.

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Semuels reported from Boston. Muskal reported from Los Angeles.

Staff writer Richard Simon in Washington contributed to this report.

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