Mix of Ice, Snow and Rain Plagues Travel, Closes Schools in Northeast

A powerful winter storm spread more than a half-foot of snow across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday, closing businesses and hundreds of schools and creating headaches for morning commuters.

The Maine Legislature called off its session for the day and postponed public hearings.

The National Weather Service reported 8.5 inches of snow in Brunswick and nearly 8 at Sanford and Fitchburg, Mass., and up to 6 inches in eastern New York state. Winter storm warnings were in effect for much of New England and northern New York state.

The weather system had been blamed for at least 10 deaths in two days.

The storm had pummeled much of the Ohio Valley with ice and snow on Tuesday as it followed a northeasterly track toward New England. Precipitation in New England started as snow changed over to sleet and freezing rain, and was expected to change completely to rain during the day. Farther south, rain soaked the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to the New York metropolitan area during the morning.

"I guess we wouldn't be here (the northeast) if it bothered us," Peter Rossi said as he had breakfast in Albany, N.Y. "The big deal with the weather like this is the other guy you have to watch out for on the roads. Everyone's got a different driving style."

Central Maine Power Co. reported only a handful of outages Wednesday morning but was prepared for more problems during the day. About 7,000 customers were blacked out in New York's Hudson Valley. More than 5,000 customers still had no power Wednesday in southwest Missouri, where the ice struck on Monday.

"This snow may be heavy and sticky, and after the changeover there could be significant icing in some areas — this kind of weather can be hard on our system," said CMP spokesman John Carroll.

Authorities reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on the Maine Turnpike because of the weather, and traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike was limited to 40 mph.

Many flights in and out of Portland International Jetport were canceled Wednesday morning, and bus services reported cancellations and delays. Philadelphia International Airport reported up to one-hour flight delays and ice and freezing rain shut down Connecticut's Bradley International Airport at Hartford for nearly five hours during the morning.

The storm was adding to this winter's already impressive snowfall totals in Maine. Through Tuesday, Portland had received 71.5 inches, far above the 43.6 inch average for the date, the weather service said. Last year at this time, only 15.7 inches had fallen in Portland.

In far northern Maine, more than 125 inches of snow has fallen at Caribou, which had its snowiest January on record with 97.8 inches through Jan. 31.

On Tuesday, thousands lost power in the Ohio Valley, and about 450 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. High wind and tornadoes in Louisiana pushed ships around like toys on the Mississippi River and killed at least one person.

In addition to the Louisiana death, the storm system had been blamed for one traffic death in New Jersey, three in Kentucky, two in Missouri, two in West Virginia, and one in Philadelphia.