updated 10/26/2005 2:05:32 PM ET 2005-10-26T18:05:32

An early nor’easter fed by Hurricane Wilma dumped heavy rain and up to 20 inches of wet snow from New England to West Virginia, knocking out power to tens of thousands, closing schools and elevating rivers.

The wintry blast Tuesday brought the leaf-peeping fall foliage season to an abrupt end as branches still bearing leaves broke beneath the snow’s weight, pulling down power lines.

Power was restored to many in affected areas but thousands remained without Wednesday morning.

“We had a perfect storm, unfortunately,” said Steve Costello, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service Corp., Vermont’s largest utility. “We had heavy, wet snow like wet cement on top of trees that still had their leaves on.”

Dozens of schools were closed in Vermont, western Maryland and West Virginia.

The storm was reinforced by Wilma’s travels up the Atlantic Coast. Wilma’s spinning action pulled down cold air from Canada and mixed it with the hurricane’s subtropical moisture.

The National Weather Service in Vermont reported 16 inches of snow in Barton, 14 inches in East Brownington and Underhill and 20 inches on Jay Peak, in the town of Jay. In Maine, 12 inches fell in northern Aroostook County, and 12 inches was dumped on far western Maryland.

Ski resorts relished the early snow.

Tom Borracks, communications manager for Killington, said the Vermont ski area was likely to open earlier than its planned date of Nov. 11. “It’s definitely a welcome sight,” he said. “It not only gets us excited about the season but it gets the phones ringing.”

In parts of West Virginia where 3 to 7 inches of snow fell, unplowed roads were clogged with tree limbs and deep slush.

“It was a thin band of snow, and if you were under that band, you got pounded,” said Ray Young, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va.

Weather-related traffic deaths were reported in Pennsylvania and Maine, and the Coast Guard called off a search for a man lost when he went body surfing off a Plymouth, Mass., beach.

The storm churned 20-foot seas that prompted commercial fishermen to stay on solid ground. Some were mindful of the nor’easter that combined with Hurricane Grace in October 1991, which created the “Perfect Storm” that inspired a book and movie that focused on a Gloucester fishing boat lost at sea.

“I wouldn’t want to be out there today — too dangerous,” fisherman Matt Farrara said Tuesday as he made repairs to his boat at the state fishing pier in Gloucester.

Minor flooding closed some streets in Cape Cod, and ferries serving the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were canceled.

It has been the wettest month on record in Providence, R.I., with 15.07 inches of rain. Worcester, Mass., also topped its October record with 15.52 inches so far this month.

The statue of a soldier at Minuteman National Historic Park in Concord had become an island as water spilled over the banks of the Concord River and ducks splashed around its base.

That didn’t keep away visitor Spencer McConkie, 24, of Salt Lake City. “It’s not what I’m used to,” he said of the weather. “I just learned what a nor’easter was yesterday.”

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