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Early snow pelts East Coast, cuts power to 2M-plus

By Genaro C. Armas

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29 2011 8:31 p.m. MDT

A Times Square Alliance worker clears snow in New York's Times Square Saturday Oct. 29, 2011. An unusual early-autumn nor'easter brought a mix of snow, rain and slush to parts of New York on Saturday, and authorities said Central Park was seeing its snowiest October on record.

Tina Fineberg, Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — An unusually early and powerful nor'easter dumped wet, heavy snow Saturday from the mid-Atlantic to New England, toppling leafy trees and power lines and knocking out electricity to more than 2 million homes and businesses.

Communities inland were getting hit hardest, with eastern Pennsylvania serving as the bull's-eye for the storm. West Milford, N.J., about 45 miles northwest of New York City, had received 15.5 inches of snow by Saturday night, while Plainfield, Mass., had gotten 14.3 inches. New York City's Central Park set a record for both the date and the month of October with 1.3 inches of snow.

More than 2.3 million customers lost power from Maryland north through Massachusetts, and utilities were bringing in crews from other states to help restore it. More than half a million residents in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut were without power, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. By late Saturday, the storm had vacated most of Pennsylvania and was tracking northeast.

Throughout the region, officials had warned that the early storm would bring sticky snow on the heels of the week's warmer weather and could create dangerous conditions. New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts declared states of emergencies, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for 13 counties. At least three deaths have been blamed on the storm.

"It's a little startling. I mean, it's only October," said Craig Brodur, who was playing keno with a friend at Northampton Convenience in western Massachusetts, which had received about 4 inches of snow by Saturday night.

And the storm was expected to worsen as it swept north. The heaviest snowfall 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. Wind gusts of up to 55 mph were predicted especially along coastal areas.

Some said that even though they knew a storm was coming, the severity caught them by surprise.

"This is absolutely a lot more snow than I expected to see today. I can't believe it's not even Halloween and it's snowing already," Carole Shepherd of Washington Township, N.J., said after shoveling her driveway.

The storm disrupted travel along the Eastern Seaboard. Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport all had hourslong delays Saturday. Amtrak suspended service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., and commuter trains in Connecticut and New York were delayed or suspended because of downed trees and signal problems.

Residents were urged to avoid travel altogether. Speed limits were reduced on bridges between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A few roads closed because of accidents and downed trees and power lines, and more were expected, said Sean Brown, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The storm came on a busy weekend for many, 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.

But the snow didn't 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, sweatshirt, T-shirt and thermal. Another fan wore a foam Donkey Kong costume headpiece as he walked to a tailgate.

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