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‘Historic’ early snowstorm slams US northeast

/ 12:07 PM October 30, 2011

NEW YORK – Snow and icy rain pelted the US east coast Saturday, sparking long airport delays and major power cuts as forecasters warned the rare October storm could dump up to a foot of snow in some areas.

 RARE OCCURRENCE. A vehicle makes its way at the snow-covered intersection of Autumn and Grove Streets in Lodi, New Jersey following a rare October snowstorm that hit the region, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. AP

RARE OCCURRENCE. A vehicle makes its way at the snow-covered intersection of Autumn and Grove Streets in Lodi, New Jersey following a rare October snowstorm that hit the region, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. AP

The “historic early season” snowstorm was wreaking havoc on air, rail and road traffic from Washington to Boston, with the National Weather Service warning that travel at night would be “extremely hazardous.”

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A total of 1.5 million people were without power in the storm zone stretching from the Mid-Atlantic to New England, MSNBC reported.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency across his state “because of the severe weather conditions,” he said on Twitter.

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Nearly 500,000 customers were without power in New Jersey alone, he said, urging residents to “stay safe and off the roads.”

Air travelers were seeing an average delay of six hours on flights to and from Newark International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Similar problems were affecting New York’s Kennedy international airport.

Passengers at Philadelphia’s international airport were experiencing delays of 2.5 hours on average, the FAA said on its website.

On the rails, Amtrak service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg was suspended until further notice due to signal problems caused by the storm.

Christie said there were “significant closures and delays” on NJ Transit train lines due to downed trees on the tracks.

Forecasters issued a winter storm warning for large parts of the northeast, in effect until 6:00 am (1000 GMT) Sunday, predicting heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour (100 kph).

Up to a foot (30 centimeters) of snow was expected in parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, the weather service said. In Manhattan, where the storm marked the first October snow in decades, forecasters said up to 10 inches could fall.

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In Maryland and West Virginia, some towns already had 10 inches on the ground as of 2000 GMT, the weather service said.

Unseasonably cold air was pouring into the northeast, and deep tropical moisture was set to surge northward along the east coast and “fuel an expanding area of heavy rain and snow.”

Much of the region was socked in August by Hurricane Irene. Its heavy rains and wind left millions without power, destroyed homes and caused record flooding. More than 40 people died.

The unseasonably cold and wet weather did not dampen the spirits of anti-Wall Street protesters camped out in New York and Washington.

“Snow, what snow? I’ve got a country to worry about,” read a sign held by a woman at New York’s Zuccotti Park — the nerve center of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“We’re cold, we’re wet — cancel the debt!” chanted a few dozen protesters marching in downtown Washington.

At the White House, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle did not let the weather ruin their annual Halloween trick-or-treating event. They handed out candy, cookies and dried fruit to area children wrapped in wet coats.

“Let’s give out some candy,” Obama said. “I know it’s cold … It’s not ideal out here.”

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