Feb 24, 2010 11:39 AM by MSNBC

First of two storms blankets Northeast in snow

Hundreds of schools were closed and more than 160,000 customers were without power Wednesday in the Northeast as a storm that's expected to "sit and spin" brought wet, heavy snow to some areas that have had a relatively snowless winter until now.

Nearly two feet of snow fell outside Albany, according to the National Weather Service, which expected another 2-4 inches to fall by the end of the day.

Forecasters said Wednesday's storm would be followed by another expected to start Thursday and dump a foot or more on some areas by Friday, accompanied by high winds. Meteorologists said some areas of New York's Adirondack and Catskill mountains and Vermont's Green Mountains could get as much as 2 feet by the weekend.

"The storm really isn't going to go away quickly," said meteorologist Hugh Johnson of the weather service's Albany office. "It might sit and spin for a few days. It might not be until early next week that we get rid of the storm completely."

The storm began Tuesday and caused numerous accidents on New York interstate highways in the Hudson Valley, but state police said no serious injuries were reported.

The storm ended a long stretch without a major snowfall in eastern New York and northern New England, which had been spared from much of the severe weather that socked the mid-Atlantic with several feet of snow in recent weeks.

In fact, some New England areas were forced to cancel winter festivals, dog sled races and snow sculpting events this year due to the lack of any snow at all.

Before Wednesday, the Albany area had received just 28 inches of snow, well below its average snowfall total of 46 inches for this time of year. Wednesday's snow was particularly wet and thick.

Pat McDonough and her stepson spent more than a half hour shoveling the snow off their driveway and front walk in Voorheesville, a village just west of Albany.

"We tried the snowblower and it didn't work," McDonough said. "It keeps clogging up."

Due to a forecast that calls for significant snowfall in the metropolitan region, many carriers have already begun canceling flights, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said on its Web site Wednesday.

Travelers were advised to check with their airline before departing for the airport.

New York's power outages topped 135,000 Wednesday morning and were climbing as utility crews reached rural areas of the Hudson Valley and Catskills where up to 18 inches of snow had fallen. Another 26,000 outages were reported in Vermont and western Massachusetts. Schools were closed around eastern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts.

More snow is on the way for parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania still digging out from back-to-back blizzards earlier this month. As much as 6 inches was predicted over the central portion of New Jersey, and Philadelphia could get up to 8 inches by Thursday.

Contractor Jim Conde spent the morning plowing eight private roads outside Albany, getting stuck several times in the deep, compressed snow. With more on the way, he was likely to stay busy.

"That's what scares me the most," he said. "If we do get more, where are we going to put it?"

The Weather Channel reported that a second storm arriving Thursday will be even more powerful. "It is currently beginning to take shape in the Gulf of Mexico and will bring rain and some snow to parts of the Southeast today and tonight while crossing the Florida Peninsula," the Weather Channel said, adding that it also expects "increasingly gusty winds along the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Coasts tonight."

Wednesday's storm also brought heavy rain near the coast. "Some parts of Southern New England that see snow this morning could see some heavy rain by this afternoon and evening," the Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, "snow, some locally heavy, can be expected across much of the Mid-Atlantic northward into New York," it added. "A mix of rain and snow can be expected along and east of the I-87 corridor in eastern New York into Connecticut, western Massachusetts, lower elevations of Vermont and much of New Hampshire. Strong winds can also be expected across much of the region.

"The cold air will begin a slide to the east into New England tomorrow night into Friday with snow expected over much of the region," the Weather Channel said. "Rain near the New England Coast will begin to mix with snow. Gusty winds can also be expected across much of the region. Snow showers will continue into the weekend as the upper level low associated with this system lingers, but snowfall amounts and winds should begin to lighten up over the weekend."




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