Rare October snow brings winter landscape to NY

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 30 2011 12:25 p.m. MDT

NEW YORK — An early taste of winter weather brought down tree limbs all over New York and turned off power for thousands, as wet snow from an unusual October snowstorm meant putting down the rakes and picking up the shovels.

Around the state, more than 200,000 customers were without power, most in the hard-hit Hudson Valley region of the state. Consolidated Edison reported almost 69,000 customers were without power in Westchester County, as were about 4,700 customers in New York City.

Orange and Rockland said it had 84,000 customers out in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties. New York State Electric and Gas reported at least 52,000 customers with outages, and National Grid reported at least 9,300 customers out.

"I think wind is the biggest factor. The wind makes the trees wobbly and they tumble onto our lines and transformers and equipment," said ConEd spokesman Allan Drury. He said it would take several days for full restoration.

In the Hudson Valley, state police evacuated motorists from numerous vehicles stuck on Interstate 84 and the Taconic Parkway overnight and took them to hotels. Police said about 50 to 75 vehicles were towed away so the highways could be plowed, and owners were being reunited with them Sunday afternoon.

The National Weather Service says the storm dropped more than 21 inches of snow in Millbrook in the Hudson Valley. Power was knocked out to more than 110,000 homes and businesses in Dutchess and Ulster counties.

The storm was a taste for what's to come for the demonstrators camping out at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for the Occupy Wall Street protest.

Nick Lemmin, 25, of Brooklyn, spent his first night camping out at the plaza. He slept in a sleeping bag, and had on extra layers — thermals, a sweatshirt, a scarf.

"I slept actually pretty well," he said. "It was pretty quiet."

He said the OWS demonstrators were prepared for the weather, with tents. "Once you're in a tent, it's pretty warm," he said.

Lemmin thought the early snow was actually helpful, that it gave the protesters a chance to see how cold weather would be before it sets in more permanently.

"I think it's a good test," he said.

Around Albany, where most tree leaves are still green, cottony snow coated every twig and power line Sunday morning. But by noon, under a clear blue sky, the few inches of snowfall had vanished from all but the shadiest grass. At the Occupy Albany encampment across from the Capitol, about 40 people spent the night in tarp-draped tents.

"There was a team of people sweeping snow off tents overnight," said Kathy Manley, who was snug and warm overnight in a winter sleeping bag. "It's getting a little rough with the cold nights, but if people have the proper equipment it's no problem."

A couple of dirt- and leaf-caked snowmen stood among the people waving "We are the 99 percent" signs for passing cars. Geordie O'Brien, sitting with Manley at an information table under a canopy, said the protesters plan to remain in place into the winter.

With temperatures in the 30s on Sunday morning, a brilliant sun shone on Central Park, alive with people taking walks and on exercise runs.

They passed thousands of feet of yellow "caution" tape that kept them away from danger — downed tree limbs strewn all over the park, ripped off Saturday in the winds that accompanied a record snowfall on New York City.

The damage didn't keep Becky McKee, a visitor from Iowa, from enjoying a unique sight — Sheep Meadow aglow in snow white against the Manhattan skyline.

"It's so pretty!" exclaimed the teacher's aide from Underwood, Iowa.

"I wasn't expecting to be wearing hat and gloves here," she said.

McKeel said she was impressed by how New Yorkers reacted to Saturday's weather.

"I couldn't believe it. Nothing stops New Yorkers! This is not what I expected," she said.

Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in New York and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.

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