Fast-Moving New Year's Snowstorm Smothers Midwest

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A Midwestern storm that dropped up to 16 inches of snow on New Year's Day snarled traffic on highways and runways and extended the winter vacation at dozens of schools.

The storm was threatening to cause similar disruptions as it moved into New England. Meanwhile, new snow was falling early Wednesday across much of Michigan and Ohio, where thousands of people had lost power the day before.

Authorities reported no deaths or serious injuries from the six-hour blast of Michigan snow, which started early Tuesday. But they said there were many spinouts and minor accidents on the roadways.

The storm extended the winter holiday through Wednesday for students at dozens of schools across southeastern Michigan.

Ten to 16 inches of snow buried parts of Oakland, Lapeer and St. Clair counties north of Detroit, the National Weather Service said. The western St. Clair County community of Capac reported 16 inches.

"This will be a memorable storm for the amount of snow it dumped in such a short amount of time," Weather Service meteorologist David Shuler said.

He said it was the region's heaviest New Year's Day snowstorm on record and was unusual for its intensity. During the heart of the storm, snow fell at a rate of at least 2 inches an hour, with periods of 4 inches an hour.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest, canceled about 150 flights Tuesday and reported delays of about 45 minutes because of blowing snow. Passengers also experienced morning delays at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, but operations were back to normal by the afternoon, spokesman Michael Conway said.

Utility officials reported scattered power failures affecting more than 36,000 homes and businesses.

The storm also blacked out 10,000 customers in northeast Ohio, mainly in areas east of Cleveland, said Chris Eck, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp. Wind gusted to 51 mph at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, the Weather Service said.

FirstEnergy repair crews had difficulty keeping up with the storm. "As they're getting lights on, lights are going off. They're just fighting it as it happens," Eck said.

Farther east, the weather system spread snow across upstate New York and northern New England, where it was expected to last into Wednesday and drop as much as a foot of snow on parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

It followed a storm in the Northeast on Monday that made for the snowiest December in the region in decades. December's snowfall at Concord, N.H., totaled 44.5 inches, toppling a record of 43 inches that had stood since 1876. Burlington, Vt., got 45.7 inches, far above its 17.2-inch December average, and Portland, Maine, amassed 37.7 inches for its third-snowiest December on record.

New Hampshire has already spent $30 million on snow removal out of the $75 million budgeted for the entire winter, said highway department spokesman Bill Boynton.

However, New England ski resorts enjoyed the flurry of storms after last year's lack of snow early in the season.

Maine received a fresh layer of snow on top of the roughly 6 feet that accumulated last month at the state's two biggest ski resorts, Sugarloaf USA and Sunday River.

"It's been unbelievable," Sugarloaf spokesman Bill Swain said. "It just keeps coming."