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Spring delivers wintry wallop to East Coast

A late-season snowstorm dumps up to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow on northern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, cutting off power to thousands and closing some schools.
Image: Heriberto Perez Rios clears his car of snow
Heriberto Perez Rios clears his car of snow in Littleton, N.H., on Wednesday. Jim Cole / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A rare late-season snowstorm dumped up to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow on northern New York and northern New England on Wednesday, giving school children an unexpected day off and forcing others to seek refuge from homes darkened by downed power lines.

The National Weather Service reported more than 20 inches of snow fell on the western slopes of Vermont's Green Mountains northeast of Burlington. In the mountain town of Jericho, some residents visited the local library to stay warm and browse the Internet.

"It's been constant pretty much since we opened our doors. Parents are definitely looking for some place warm to bring to bring their kids," said Holly Hall, director of the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library. And it's not just parents. "Every available outlet we have is in use right now. There are more laptop users than usual."

Large storms so late in the season are rare. On April 23, 1993, 22 inches of snow was reported in Malone, N.Y., and on April 27, 1874, 24 inches of snow was reported in Bellows Falls, Vt., said Mark Breen, the senior meteorologist at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury.

"You really do have to stretch to find events like this," Breen said.

Thousands without power
At the peak of the storm Wednesday morning, about 30,000 customers were without power across Vermont, New Hampshire and northern New York. It could be Thursday before power is fully restored.

"It definitely caught people off guard, considering we had 80 degrees back in March. It's a problem because some people swapped their (snow) tires out already," said Vermont highway dispatcher Greg Fox.

By midday, the storm was drifting off the coast and the snow was turning to rain. Temperatures are expected to hit 50 on Thursday and reach the 70s by the weekend, heralding a quick return to spring weather.

Many trees across the region have already started to bud, but temperatures didn't fall much below freezing.

"The green part isn't a problem. Snow is basically protecting leaves from temperatures getting colder," Breen said.

Instead, the danger to the trees comes because the leaves gives the snow more surface area to cling to, making them more susceptible to breaking under the weight of the snow.

Snowfall records were set Tuesday and Wednesday at the Burlington International Airport, the National Weather Service said. Tuesday's 2.8 inches at the airport eclipsed the record of 1.3 inches set on the date in 1946, and by 7 a.m. Wednesday 2.7 inches had fallen, beating the record of seven-tenths of an inch set on the date in 1966, said meteorologist Brooke Taber.

‘It’s a momentary inconvenience’
In Maine, some areas in the western mountains received snow accumulation — Bethel received 5 inches — but rain later washed most of it away.

"It's a momentary inconvenience and it's pretty much gone, so we can get back our thoughts of early spring," said Wendy Hanscom, high school secretary in Bethel.

But others reveled in one more shot at winter fun.

Dr. Richard Erenstone, an ophthalmologist in Lake Placid, N.Y., was thrilled to get another day — or two — on skis. He had just returned from a 40 minute loop with his dog on a golf course that got about 10 inches of fresh snow.

"The toughest thing was finding the access road because it had not been plowed," he said. "This was a nice bonus day and gives me a total of 134 days on skis this season. With the temps dropping below freezing tonight, I'll be out there again first thing tomorrow before it begins to melt."