Late-winter snow, flooding wallop New England, NY

By Dave Gram

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 7 2011 4:35 p.m. MST

Bill St. John pulls snow from an awning while Mark Prevost clears the sidewalk of the Renaissance Plaza in downtown Glens Falls on Monday, March 7, 2011. The area was blanketed with more than a foot of snow overnight and into Monday morning. The snow closed area schools and had motorists digging out of their driveways only to find a slow commute.

The Post-Star, Derek Pruitt, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A fierce storm late in a snow-heavy winter blanketed northern New England and upstate New York with up to 30 inches of snow Monday, while western Connecticut was deluged with so much rain that parts of homes and cars floated down a swollen river.

In northern Vermont, drifting and blowing snow caused whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, and a 10- to 12-mile section of Interstate 89 was closed for hours. Thirty inches of snow was reported in Jericho in northwestern Vermont at midday, the National Weather Service said, and the Burlington Airport saw its biggest March snowfall on record: 24.3 inches of snow by 5 p.m.

Spring's arrival in just two weeks meant the most popular types of snow shovels were sold out at Aubuchon Hardware in downtown Montpelier and grass seed was on display.

"Smile, folks — it's coming," Tom Walbridge said of spring.

Outside told a different story.

Amy Newman jogged along Main Street pushing a three-wheeled stroller with big, knobby tires and carrying her 3-year-old son, Wakeland. She paused and laughed about her disrupted routine.

"We tried going to the library, but it was closed. Then we tried La Brioche" — a popular local bakery — "but it was closed, too." Their next, and last, stop was the supermarket down the street.

The storm helped push the winter of 2010-11 up the record list. The 13 inches that fell in Syracuse, N.Y., made it the fourth-snowiest winter on record there, with a season total to 173.5 inches. Rochester, N.Y., surpassed 112 inches of snow by Sunday, more than 30 inches above normal.

It's the fourth-snowiest winter on record in Burlington, at 121.4 inches, and the storm appeared potent enough to challenge the famous Valentine's Day blitz in 2007 that dumped 25.7 inches on Burlington, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Taber.

"We had almost a tropical air mass across southern New England that was trying to push north at the same time a polar air mass was trying to push south," he said.

"It was that battleground that created this intense snowfall."

Vermonters are used to winter weather, of course, but some were surprised by this storm, said Sotera Maglaris, manager of the Arcadia Diner in South Burlington. "They're surprised on how much snow we actually did end up getting and how bad the roads (are)," Maglaris said of her customers.

Schools and other public facilities closed across the region. Most nonessential state employees were given the day off.

A utility crew repairing downed power lines in the southern Vermont town of Baltimore was forced to leave the area because more ice-laden trees were coming down around them.

Heavy rain fell in western Massachusetts, where a mudslide in Greenfield forced at least two families from their homes and buried at least three cars under mud and debris. Mild temperatures melted snow rapidly and caused minor flooding in the eastern part of the state, though the region received less than half an inch of rain Monday.

In western Connecticut, heavy rains and melting snow combined to cause major flooding and mudslides. Officials in Shelton reported that parts of two homes and two cars were swept into the Housatonic River. The homes and cars appeared to be unoccupied, officials said. No injuries were reported.

The Housatonic was reported to be about 10 feet above the flood stage at the Stevenson Dam, to nearly 21 feet. Further upstream, an ice jam on the river broke in Kent and sent ice chunks and water onto a highway, which was then closed.

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