CONCORD, N.H. – Northern New Englanders who feared -- or hoped -- they'd be in for a long, snowy winter after the first flakes fell in October finally got a second helping Thursday, more than two months later.
Many schools were closed in New Hampshire and Maine, and multiple accidents were reported in southern Vermont as much of the region saw its first significant snowfall since an unusually early October storm dropped close to 2 feet in some places.
The snowfall that began before daybreak Thursday was expected to add up to 5 to 9 inches of snow in interior Maine and New Hampshire, with coastal Maine and Vermont seeing 3 to 6 inches, said meteorologist James Brown from the National Weather Service.
The snow was a welcome sight to snowplow driver Joe Messer, who had thought the October storm was going to be the start of a busy plowing season.
"I was tickled to death. We've been waiting for a storm or two so we could make some money," said Messer, who works for RHM Construction in Bradford and handles plowing for two dozen residential customers and several businesses.
Thursday's storm was much easier to deal with than the October storm, because the ground is now frozen and the plows aren't tearing it up like they did two months ago, he said. And the consistency was easier, as well, though that was expected to change as snow turned to freezing rain later.
"It's pretty light stuff, so it's been easygoing," he said.
The snow also was a welcome relief for skiers, snowmobilers and other outdoors enthusiasts.
"Fresh powder for Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend is exactly what the doctor ordered," said Craig Clemmer, spokesman for the Mount Washington Resort, which includes the Bretton Woods downhill and cross-country ski areas.
Most northern New England ski areas have snowmaking to get snow on some trails, but having a significant storm is important for the "backyard syndrome" so people see snow and get in the winter mindset, said Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine.
The storm also arrived in time for the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, an important weekend for both downhill and cross-country ski areas.
"People have enjoyed not having to shovel snow so far this winter," Sweetser said. "But on the other hand, people really are ready."
With the lack of snow so far this season, none of Vermont's snowmobile trails had opened by the start of this week, and only a few trails were open in New Hampshire and Maine.
Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, said the situation was so bleak that the association was asking people through its Facebook page to do snow dances in hopes of conjuring up a storm.
"Everybody's been anxious," Meyers said. "There's a huge pent-up demand."
In Holderness, N.H., the storm was both good and bad news for the Squam Lakes Association, which is holding its annual WinterFest on Saturday.
The free festival includes several snow-dependent events such as snowshoe demonstrations and cross-country skiing, but also plenty of activities that require clear ice, such as skating, pond hockey and winter mini-golf, which involves hitting tennis balls with putters into holes drilled into the ice.
"We're hoping to have the ice clear, and that's going to be a challenge," said recreation director Brett Durham.
As the storm increased in intensity, the Maine Turnpike Authority reduced speed limits on the highway from Kittery to Gray to 45 mph. Police in southern Vermont said road conditions there had deteriorated rapidly by late morning, causing numerous accidents.
In one case, a truck carrying bottled water rolled over on Route 4 in Mendon, Vt.. The force of the water hitting the roof ripped off the roof, spilling the bottles onto the road.
Authorities applied sand to the road, which became even more icy because of the spilled water. No one was hurt.
In Troy, N.H., the police chief was injured when he got out of his cruiser to investigate a crash and ended up pinned between two vehicles. State police say Troy Police Chief Howard Sheats was struck by a car that lost control on the snowy road, and likely would have suffered more serious injuries if another motorist who saw the car sliding toward him had not honked his horn to alert him.