Early storm pelts East Coast with wet, heavy snow
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- A classic nor'easter was chugging along up the East Coast and expected to dump anywhere from a dusting of snow to about 10 inches throughout the region starting Saturday, a decidedly unseasonal date for a type of storm more associated with midwinter.
Communities inland in mid-Atlantic states were getting hit hardest. Some place saw more than half a foot of snow. Heavy snow was falling in western Maryland, National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Konarik said, and 10 inches fell just across the state line in Markleysburg, Pa., though the snow was beginning to taper off as the storm moved north.
More than 250,000 customers lost power in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and utilities were bringing in crews from Ohio and Kentucky to help restore it. Officials had warned that the heavy, wet snow combined with fully leafed trees could lead to downed tree branches and power lines, resulting in power outages and blocked roads.
The snow was difficult for business, too, said Gary Warn, an owner of the Hen House restaurant in Frostburg, Md.
Lunchtime was "dead empty," he said, and he wasn't optimistic about dinner reservations.
"As I'm looking out the window right now, the damage is already done. I don't know," he said Saturday afternoon.
A steady midday heavy snow pelted the field at Beaver Stadium in State College, where No. 21 Penn State was to host Illinois. Mother Nature cooperated with calls for a "whiteout," in which fans wear all white to the game in an occasional tradition for big games at the school. Several inches had fallen by the midafternoon kickoff.
The heaviest snow, though, was forecast for later in the day into Sunday in the Massachusetts Berkshires, the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut, southwestern New Hampshire and the southern Green Mountains.
"It's going to be wet, sticky and gloppy," said NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro. "It's not going to be a dry, fluffy snow."
The storm comes on a busy weekend for many along the Eastern Seaboard, with trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in search of Halloween booty, hunting season opening in some states and a full slate of college and pro football scheduled.
Fans in State College were making the most of what school officials said was the first measurable snowfall for any October home game since records began being kept in 1896. The crowds were thinner, but "the die-hards are here," said T.J. Coursen of Centre Hall, an alum.
"I never thought about not going," said sophomore Tim Tallmadge. "You only get to be in the student section for four years."
The snow failed to deter the travel plans of Dave Baker, who's been going to Penn State football games for 45 years and made the 200-mile drive from Warminster, outside Philadelphia. He merely adjusted his packing list: Out went the breakfast fixings -- his group ate early at a restaurant rather than at the tailgate -- in stayed the burgers and hot dogs. And the cold came in handy.
"I didn't have to buy as much ice for the beer," he said.
Elsewhere outside the stadium, 11-year-old Cody Carnes of Pittsburgh made a large snowball as he sweated underneath five layers of clothes -- a rain slicker, coat, sweat shirt, T-shirt and thermal. Another fan wore a foam Donkey Kong costume headpiece as he walked to a tailgate.
"It keeps my head nice and warm," explained Matt Langston, 25, a graduate student from Harrisburg.
In eastern Pennsylvania, snow toppled trees and a few power lines and led to minor traffic accidents, according to dispatchers. Allentown, expected to see 4 to 8 inches, is likely to break the city's October record of 2.2 inches on Halloween in 1925.
Philadelphia was seeing mostly rain, but what snow fell coated downtown roofs in white. The city was expected to get 1 to 3 inches, its first measurable October snow since 1979, with a bit more in some suburbs, meteorologist Mitchell Gaines said.
"This is very, very unusual," said John LaCorte, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College. The last major widespread snowstorm to hit Pennsylvania this early was in 1972, he said.
"It's going to be very dangerous," he added.
The storm also led to hours-long delays at several airports Saturday, including Philadelphia's as well as two that serve New York City, Newark Liberty and Kennedy. Flights headed to New York's LaGuardia weren't allowed to depart until midafternoon. The smaller airport in Teterboro, N.J., was closed.
Southern New Jersey was soaked with heavy rains and winds that ranged from 20 to 35 mph Saturday morning, while northern communities awaited the arrival of 5 to 10 inches of snow. Scattered power outages were reported across the state, and Jersey Central Power & Light, which was heavily criticized for being too slow to restore power following Hurricane Irene, had hundreds of workers set to be deployed if needed.
Parts of New York saw a mix of snow, rain and slush that made for sheer misery at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City, where drenched protesters hunkered down in tents and under tarps as the plaza filled with rainwater and melted snow.
Technically, tents are banned in the park, but protesters say authorities have been looking the other way, even despite a crackdown on generators that were keeping them warm.
"I want to thank the New York Police Department," said 32-year-old protester Sam McBee, decked out in a yellow slicker and rain pants. "We're not supposed to have tents. We're not supposed to have sleeping bags. You go to Atlanta, they don't have it. You go to Oakland, you don't have it. And we got it."
October snowfall is rare in New York; there have been just three October days with measurable snowfall in Central Park in the last 135 years when record-keeping began, according to the National Weather Service. The largest on record was in 1925 when eight-tenths of an inch fell in Central Park.
Along the coast and in such cities as Boston, relatively warm water temperatures along the Atlantic seaboard could keep the snowfall totals much lower, meteorologist Bill Simpson said, with 1 to 3 inches of snowfall forecast along the I-95 corridor. Washington was expected to get just a dusting.
But October snowfall records could be broken in parts of southern New England, especially at higher elevations, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson said. The October record for southern New England is 7.5 inches in Worcester in 1979.
Rain and snow were due to begin falling on Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine during the day, with the heaviest snow falling overnight. Parts of southern Vermont could receive more than a foot.
The first measurable snow in New England usually falls in early December, and normal highs for late October are in the mid-50s.
"This is just wrong," said Dee Lund of East Hampton, Conn., who was at a Glastonbury garage Friday getting four new tires for her car before a weekend road trip to New Hampshire.
Lund said that after last winter's record snowfall, which left a 12-foot snowbank outside her house, she'd been hoping for a reprieve.
But not everyone was lamenting the unofficial arrival of winter.
Two Vermont ski resorts, Killington and Mount Snow, planned to start the ski season early by opening one trail each over the weekend, thanks to the recent snow and cold. Maine's Sunday River ski resort also opened for the weekend.
In State College, 14-year-old Mac Charvala and his brother Will, 10, of South Orange, N.J., were using new boogie boards to slide along an inch of slushy snow covering a parking lot, where a slow trickle of cars left plenty of space for them.
"We've never been to a snow game before," said their father, Mike. "It's an adventure. If you don't want to have fun, stay home."
Associated Press writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia, David B. Caruso and Colleen Long in New York, Eric Tucker in Washington, Pat Eaton-Robb in Hebron, Conn.; Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J.; and Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.