SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. — Millions of people from Maine to Maryland were without power as an unseasonably early storm dumped heavy, wet snow over the weekend on a region more used to gaping at leaves in October than shoveling snow.
The snow was due to stop falling in New England late Sunday, but it could be days before many of the 2.7 million without electricity see it restored, officials warned.
At least three deaths were blamed on the weather, and states of emergency were declared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York.
The storm worsened as it moved north, and communities in western Massachusetts were among the hardest hit. Snowfall totals topped 27 inches in Plainfield, and nearby Windsor had gotten 26 inches by early Sunday.
"Look at this, look at all the damage," said Jennifer Burckson, 49, after she came outside Sunday morning in South Windsor to find a massive tree branch had smashed her car's back windshield. Trees in the neighborhood were snapped in half, with others weighed down so much that the leaves brushed the snow.
Compounding the storm's impact were still-leafy trees, which gave the snow something to hang onto and that put tremendous weight on branches, said National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro. That led to limbs breaking off and contributed to the widespread outages.
"We can't even use the snow blower because the snow is so heavy," Burckson said.
The 750,000 who lost power in Connecticut broke a record for the state that was set when the remnants of Hurricane Irene hit the state in August. People could be without electricity for as long as a week, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
This outage will be worse than one caused by Irene, said Peter Bloom, 70, of South Windsor, because he relies on electricity to heat his home.
"I'm going to put another blanket on. What else can I do?" he said as he gassed up a snow blower to clear his driveway. "At least I'll save a few bucks on my electric bill."
The severity of the storm caught many by surprise.
"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.
Some inland towns got more than a foot of snow. West Milford, N.J., about 45 miles northwest of New York City, saw 19 inches by early Sunday.
New Jersey's largest electric and gas utility, PSE&G, warned customers to prepare for "potentially lengthy outages" and advised power might not be fully restored until Wednesday. More than 600,000 lost electricity in the state, including Gov. Chris Christie.
Along the coast and in such cities as Boston, relatively warm water temperatures helped keep snowfall totals much lower. Washington received a trace of snow, tying a 1925 record for the date. New York City's Central Park set a record for both the date and the month of October with 1.3 inches of snow.
But in New Hampshire's capital of Concord, more than 22 inches fell, weeks ahead of the usual first measurable snowfall. Trees downtown still bright with fall colors were covered with snow. Some didn't survive — a large oak tree that had stood alongside the Statehouse fell, partially blocking a side street.
By 8 a.m., Dave Whitcher had already been clearing dozens of parking lots in and around Concord for eight hours as part of his work as a property manager.
Holding up his shovel, he said, "Me and this guy are going to get to know each other real well today."
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.
Two of the airports serving New York City, Newark Liberty and Kennedy, had hours-long delays Saturday, as did Philadelphia's airport. 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.
Philadelphia saw mostly rain, but the snow that did fall coated downtown roofs in white.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, an 84-year-old man was killed when a snow-laden tree fell on his home while he was napping in his recliner. In Connecticut, the governor said one person died in a Colchester traffic accident that he blamed on slippery conditions.
And a 20-year-old man in Springfield, Mass., stopped when he saw police and firefighters examining downed wires and stepped in the wrong place and was electrocuted, Capt. William Collins said.
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.
Nick Lemmin, 25, of Brooklyn, was spending his first night at the encampment. He was one of a handful of protesters still at the park early Sunday.
"I had to come out and support," he said. "The underlying importance of this is such that you have to weather the cold."
Adash Daniel, 24, is a protester who had been at the park for three weeks. He had a sleeping bag and cot that he was going to set up, but changed his mind.Comment on this story
"I'm not much good to this movement if I'm shivering," he said as he left the park.
October snowfall is rare in New York, and Saturday marked just the fourth October day with measurable snowfall in Central Park since record-keeping began 135 years ago, the National Weather Service said.
But the unofficial arrival of winter was a boon for some. Two Vermont ski resorts, Killington and Mount Snow, started the ski season early by opening one trail each over the weekend, and Maine's Sunday River ski resort also opened for the weekend.
Associated Press writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia; David B. Caruso, Colleen Long and Deepti Hajela in New York; Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H.; and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.