ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A fierce storm swept across the Midwest and into the Northeast on Friday, causing temperatures to plummet and generating winds up to 77 mph. Three people were killed by falling trees.
The storm sent temperatures in some parts of western New York plunging from 60 degrees to below freezing within a few hours. High winds knocked out power to more than 300,000 homes and offices and closed schools.
A falling tree crushed a passing car in suburban Rochester, killing a 52-year-old woman, and another crashed onto a truck at Saratoga Spa State Park, killing a state worker.
Also, in Massachusetts, a tree fell onto a pickup truck in Billerica, killing the driver.
Gov. George Pataki, recuperating from surgery to remove his appendix, activated an emergency command center to coordinate state agencies that help reroute traffic, clear debris and restore power. "The prayers of all New Yorkers go out to the families of the two individuals who died," he said.
In rural Gorham, 25 miles southeast of Rochester, a dozen youngsters narrowly escaped injury when a tree fell and heavily damaged their school bus.
The high winds also knocked out a 12th-floor window in a high-rise office building in Syracuse, and falling debris barely missed passers-by, police said. Two sanitation workers were trapped in their garbage truck for more than a half-hour when it became entangled in downed power lines.
The blustery conditions forced five planes to temporarily circle Albany International Airport, which was briefly shrouded in low clouds before the sky turned blue again.
"As soon as we came through the clouds, we had a couple big dips like a roller-coaster," said passenger Jason Dilwith, 25, an engineer from Argyle, after arriving on a flight from Buffalo.
The winter blast moved east after pummeling the Midwest a day earlier.
In Michigan, about 100,000 customers were still without power Friday after 60-mph winds blew through the Lower Peninsula. Some homes and businesses were expected to remain blacked out until Monday.
Wind of more than 60 mph buffeted the Rochester area and a 77-mph gust was recorded at the city's airport, the National Weather Service said.
Scores of schools were shuttered for the day across western and central New York. As the treacherous conditions moved across upstate New York, schools as far east as the Albany area closed early.
In Binghamton, wind gusts above 50 mph damaged windows on the upper floors of an eight-story building, sending shards of glass crashing down onto a sidewalk and street. No one was hurt.