Winter storm buries southern New England

By Pat Eaton-Robb

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 7:57 p.m. MST

Heavy snows buried parts of the Northeast in more than 2 feet of snow, smothering highways and halting trains.

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — As the third snowstorm in three weeks rolled up the East Coast early Wednesday, Josh Clukey realized he would have no choice but to venture out: His pregnant wife was showing signs of labor.

Sometime after midnight, the couple bundled up and left their home in Eastford for a hospital in Willimantic, normally a 25-minute trip. Instead it was a harrowing hour.

"It was dark, and the snow was blowing all over the place. I drove really slow," said Clukey, 24, whose son, Ryland James, was born a few hours after dawn. "There was maybe only about 6 inches on the roads at the time, but the plows hadn't come out yet."

Six inches was only the beginning. The storm buried parts of the Northeast in more than 2 feet of snow, smothering highways, halting trains and plunging thousands of homes and business into cold darkness.

The storm, which iced over much of the South before sweeping up the coast, wreaked havoc on transportation across southern New England.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and mobilized the National Guard. He said the storm brought more snow and a wetter kind of snow than officials expected, leaving more than 100,000 people without power or heat by noon.

Maria Rivera, 60, slept overnight in a food court booth at a travel plaza on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Natick. She said the person providing her ride home to Worcester could not make it in the storm, and she had to be back for her Wednesday shift.

"I have to work," she said. "I have to pay my bills."

In New York, where city leaders took heavy criticism for their slow work after a Dec. 26 blizzard, officials rolled out a massive response that quickly cleared the streets. They also received some help from nature, with only 9 inches of snow falling in Central Park — well short of 20 inches in last month's storm.

This time, the deepest snow fell farther north.

The roof of an apartment building in Norwich partially collapsed under the weight of the snow, forcing 10 people from their homes. State troopers, working double shifts on orders of the governor, responded to about 900 spinouts, fender-benders and stranded vehicles.

By early afternoon, New Fairfield had 28 inches of snow, and Danbury had 24 inches. The 22.5 inches recorded at Bradley International Airport set a one-day record for snowfall in the Hartford area.

But the storm had no chance of touching the previous one-day record for the state of 30 inches, set in 1888 in Middletown and matched in 1969 in Falls Village.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state might qualify for federal money to pay for the cleanup.

"We're still in the position where we are simply trying to make sure that people are safe and that we can get commerce up and running as rapidly as possible," Malloy said.

The storm joined forces with another system passing through the Midwest and announced its arrival in New England with claps of thunder.

Scores of schools, businesses and government offices closed. And more than 1,700 flights were canceled at the New York region's three airports, which were trying to resume normal operations Wednesday.

Commuter rail service was delayed or suspended across the region, and Amtrak suspended service between New York City and Boston because of damage to the overhead power system south of Boston.

In New York, Eric Winbush learned after he got to Penn Station that his Amtrak train to Boston had been canceled.

"I'm going to Boston because my father is on his deathbed," said Winbush, whose 90-year-old father was in a hospice. "My brothers and sisters are waiting on me."

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