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Nor’easter fortified by Wilma hits New England

An early nor’easter reinforced by distant Hurricane Wilma on Tuesday pounded beaches with 20-foot waves, knocked out power to thousands and dumped rain throughout the Northeast.
Fisherman Garver Vila talks on his cell phone as surf breaks near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., on Tuesday.Jose F. Moreno / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A nor’easter that drew energy from the remnants of far-off Hurricane Wilma battered New England and the mid-Atlantic states with 20-foot waves and winds up to 70 mph Tuesday, brought some inland areas their first snow of the season and knocked out power to about 200,000 homes and businesses.

The powerful nor’easter reminded fishermen of the deadly “Perfect Storm” of October 1991.

“It’s pretty nasty,” said John Yard, who had rented an apartment a block from the ocean in Manasquan, N.J., three weeks ago — just in time for flooding caused by eight straight days of rain earlier this month. “It’s been hell with all the flooding and the water out here. It’s amazing what this weather is doing.”

On Cape Cod, Harwich Harbormaster Thomas Leach recorded sustained wind of 56 mph and gust of 70 mph.

The storm was reinforced by the remnants of Hurricane Wilma, which was about 400 miles southeast of Boston and speeding toward the North Atlantic after battering Florida a day earlier.

“It’s getting some energy from Wilma, but it’s its own separate system,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton. The nor’easter is “a good storm in its own right.”

Fishermen stay home
Many commercial fishermen stayed in port, mindful of the “Perfect Storm,” which inspired the book and movie of the same name about a Gloucester fishing boat that disappeared when a nor’easter collided with Hurricane Grace in the North Atlantic.

“I wouldn’t want to be out there today — too dangerous,” fisherman Matt Farrara said as he made repairs to his boat at Gloucester. He fished through the 1991 storm.

In New Jersey, waves up to 20 feet high washed away stretches of beach at Bay Head, and howling wind stripped sand off the shore at Point Pleasant Beach, piling it 3 feet deep on a street a block inland.

Dozens of flights were canceled at Boston’s Logan Airport. In the New York City area, airports reported flight delays of as much as 3½ hours.

70,000 homes without power
With the ground already soggy from one of the rainiest Octobers on record, the high winds toppled trees, bringing down power lines. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, more than 70,000 homes and businesses lost electricity. That was down by more than half by Tuesday evening as winds and rain eased.

Snow fell at higher elevations from West Virginia, which got up to 7 inches, to northern Maine. Nearly a foot fell in far western Maryland.

The wet, heavy snow brought down tree limbs and power lines, blacking out some 76,000 customers in West Virginia, 27,000 in Pennsylvania and about 13,000 in Maryland.

Two traffic deaths — in Pennsylvania and Maine — were blamed on the weather. In Massachusetts, a Coast Guard helicopter searched Tuesday night for a man reported missing after he went body surfing in storm-churned water off Plymouth.

Atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the Northeast’s tallest peak at 6,288 feet, the Mount Washington Observatory measured 100 mph wind and near-blizzard conditions in fog and blowing snow.

“It’s going pretty crazy out here,” said Tim Markle, the observatory’s chief meteorologist.