Snow smacks Northeast; power could be out for days

By Michael Melia

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 30 2011 12:01 p.m. MDT

Snow and autumn leaves cover fallen limbs after a snowstorm in downtown Concord, N.H., Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011.

Holly Ramer, Associated Press

SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. — Millions of people from Maine to Maryland were without power as an unseasonably early nor'easter 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 Halloween will likely come and go before many of the more than 3 million without electricity see it restored, officials warned. Several officials referred to the combination of its early arrival and its ferocity as historic, yet another unwelcome superlative for weather-weary Northeasterners.

"You had this storm, you had Hurricane Irene, you had the flooding last spring and you had the nasty storms last winter," Tom Jacobsen said Sunday while getting coffee at a convenience store in Hamilton Township, N.J.

"I'm starting to think we really ticked off Mother Nature somehow because we've been getting spanked by her for about a year now."

The storm smashed record snowfall totals for October and worsened as it moved north. 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. It was blamed for at least three deaths, and states of emergency were declared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York.

"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, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

This outage will be worse than the 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, and it disrupted Halloween plans, too.

Sharon Martovich of Southbury, Conn., who was grocery shopping Sunday morning in nearby Newtown at one of the few businesses open for miles, said she's hoping the power will come back on in time for her husband's Halloween tradition of playing "Young Frankenstein" on a giant screen in front of their house.

"We would be really sad and it would disappoint a lot of people if we can't play 'Young Frankenstein,'" she said. But no matter what, they will make sure the eight or so children who live in the neighborhood don't miss out on trick-or-treating.

"Either way we will get the giant flashlights and we will go," she said.

She was already making the best of the outage. After her power went out at about 4 p.m. Saturday, she invited neighbors over for an impromptu Halloween party with wine and quesadillas in front of her propane fireplace.

Around Newtown, snow-laden branches trees were snapping off trees every few minutes. Roads that were plowed became impassible because the trees were falling so fast.

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