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Late-winter wallop shocks New England, upstate NY

By Rodrique Ngowi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 8 2011 7:18 a.m. MST

A canoe and yard furniture are coated with snow in flood waters early Monday March 7, 2011 in Washingtonville, N.Y. Flooding has closed several roads in Ulster County and other areas south of Albany. Parts of upstate New York are buried under more than 2 feet of heavy snow, with freezing rain, sleet and 30-mph winds added to the mix, closing scores of schools and knocking out power to more than 40,000 utility customers.

Paul Kazdan, Associated Press

BOSTON — A powerful storm stunned New England and northern New York with a late-winter wallop, burying parts of the region in more than 2 feet of snow, hampering efforts to reach a small plane that crashed after the pilot reported icing problems and dropping rain that swelled rivers and swept away houses.

The winter blast also stopped commuters in their tracks on ice-covered highways and contributed to the death of a 2-year-old Danville, Vt., boy who died Monday night after being struck in his driveway by a snowplow driven by a relative.

Maine officials said the plane, a four-seat Diamond DA-40, went down near the Canadian border Monday afternoon, killing one person and injuring another. State wardens had to use snowmobiles to respond to the area, where most of the logging roads hadn't been plowed, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department. A Canadian search and rescue helicopter reached the site Monday night and airlifted the injured person to a hospital in Canada.

The storm pushed the seasonal snow total in notoriously wintry Buffalo, N.Y., an inch past 100. Burlington, Vt., registered its biggest March snowfall on record, at 25.8 inches as of Monday night. In southern New England, flooding closed roads and cut off neighborhoods as rain melted snow or fell on frozen ground with no place to drain but overtaxed rivers.

A mudslide in Greenfield, Mass., forced at least two families from their homes and buried cars, the Republican newspaper reported. In Newport, N.H., an adult and three children had to be rescued by boat when the Sugar River surrounded their home. The Housatonic River near Oxford, Conn., swept parts of two homes and two cars away, authorities said.

The storm's severity shocked even the hardiest stock in New England, where in a nod to the inevitable coming of spring after one of the harshest winters in recent memory, stores had put grass seed on display. Instead, as the second week of March began, businesses closed and residents hunkered down yet again.

Amy Newman laughed about her disrupted routine as she struggled down Main Street in Montpelier, Vt., pushing a three-wheeled stroller and carrying her 3-year-old son, Wakeland.

"We tried going to the library, but it was closed," she said. "Then we tried (popular local bakery) La Brioche, but it was closed, too."

To the south, the weather was no laughing matter.

In Connecticut, flood warnings were issued for the Housatonic, Farmington, Still and Naugatuck rivers. About a dozen homes were evacuated in Danbury, and water was reported up to the first floors of homes in one neighborhood. Authorities considered evacuating an apartment complex for the elderly as water encroached.

Kent authorities reported that about 40 families in one area were cut off from main roads and their homes were being evacuated. In Southbury, officials reported more than two dozen evacuations, several homes underwater and a few mudslides. A mobile home reportedly was washed away after it was evacuated.

Officials in Plainville, Canton and Watertown asked state officials for hundreds of sandbags.

Parts of upstate New York were buried under more than 2 feet of heavy snow, combined with freezing rain, sleet and 30 mph winds. Schools closed and thousands of customers lost power. Part of Interstate 81 near Syracuse, N.Y., closed when tractor-trailers jackknifed on an icy uphill stretch.

The storm dropped 27 inches of snow on Westport, across Lake Champlain from Vermont, and Saranac Lake topped out at 29 inches, the National Weather Service said. More than 50,000 power outages were reported at the storm's peak, most of them around Albany, N.Y.

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

Even forecasters were caught off guard after most had called for about a foot of snow.

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