Video: Early winter blast

updated 12/4/2007 2:16:45 AM ET 2007-12-04T07:16:45

Drivers in much of the Northeast navigated a treacherous mix of rain, sleet and snow Monday as a storm blamed for at least 16 deaths slid through the region after pounding the Upper Midwest.

Schools canceled or delayed classes from New York to Maine as the region’s first snowstorm of the season whipped up wind gusting to 40 mph.

At the same time, a new storm system was wreaking havoc on the West Coast and expected to give the Midwest a second blast of snow.

States in the Northeast put hundreds of plows on the roads, including about 650 in New Hampshire alone. The speed limit on part of the Massachusetts Turnpike was cut to 40 mph as police reported numerous traffic accidents around the state.

Most courts in Maine closed for the day and Gov. John Baldacci considered sending state workers home early. Communities around the state imposed parking bans for Monday and Tuesday to make way for snowplows.

'Can hardly keep your eyes open'
“It’s snowing so hard you can hardly keep your eyes open,” said Bill Swain, spokesman for Maine’s Sugarloaf USA ski area in Carrabassett Valley.

The National Weather Service said a foot of snow was possible in northern New England, with the potential for 20 inches in northern Maine. Winter storm warnings were in effect in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and northern and western New York.

Nearly 26,000 customers were without power around noon Monday in Connecticut.

The tail end of the storm raked northeastern Ohio on Monday with wind gusting to 50 mph, and up to a foot of snow was possible in the area along Lake Erie into Tuesday.

Power outages in northeast Ohio northwest Pennsylvania had blacked out more than 20,000 customers, according to Duke Energy, FirstEnergy and American Electric Power.

Air travel was disrupted Monday at the Portland International Jetport in Maine as flights were canceled because of poor conditions at connecting airports.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed by wind, ice and poor visibility during the weekend at the New York City area’s three main airports and Chicago’s O’Hare. Airliners slid off slippery pavement during the weekend at airports in Syracuse, N.Y.; Des Moines, Iowa, and Madison, Wis. No one was injured.

On the opposite side of the country, a new storm system hammered the Northwest with wind gusting higher than 100 mph in some spots and surf reported 45 feet high.

Mudslides halted north-south Amtrak passenger train service between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia. Fallen trees and flooding blocked all highways into Tillamook, Ore., and at one point early Monday almost every road into Aberdeen, Wash., was closed, authorities said. Utilities said some 70,000 homes and businesses were blocked out in Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

“In 30 years of law enforcement, it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen,” said Grays Harbor County Sheriff Michael J. Whelan, whose own truck was smashed in his driveway by a falling tree.

A second blast expected on the coast later Monday could be the strongest storm coming ashore since 1999, weather service meteorologists said, issuing issued the region’s first warning for hurricane-force wind.

The Northwest’s severe weather was expected to reach the Upper Midwest with snow on Tuesday, the weather service in Minneapolis said.

That would be just three days after that region was battered by the storm that was affecting the Northeast on Monday. Minnesota’s Grand Marais, on Lake Superior’s North Shore, got 20 inches of snow Saturday, according to the weather service. Earlier, that same system dumped about 3 feet of snow in one mountain area in western Colorado.

Icy or wet pavement was blamed for four deaths in Michigan, three in Wisconsin, two each in New Jersey and Ohio, and one each in Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Dakota and Colorado. One of the New Jersey deaths occurred during the night in a 15-car pileup that also injured 28 people, police said.

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