Early storm pelts East Coast with wet, heavy snow

By Genaro C. Armas/The Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A classic nor’easter was chugging along up the East Coast and expected to dump anywhere from a dusting of snow to about 10 inches throughout the region starting Saturday, a decidedly unseasonal date for a type of storm more associated with midwinter.

Communities inland in mid-Atlantic states were getting hit hardest. Cherry Grove, W.Va., on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, already got 4 inches of snow overnight, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy snow was falling in western Maryland, and the Frostburg area could receive 8 or 9 inches. Along the Blue Ridge Mountains between Hagerstown and Frederick, significant snowfall was also expected.

Farther north in central Pennsylvania, a steady midday heavy snow pelted the field at Beaver Stadium in State College, where No. 21 Penn State was to host Illinois. Mother Nature cooperated with calls for a “whiteout,” in which fans wear all white to the game in an occasional tradition for big games at the school. A few hours before the midafternoon kickoff, about 3 inches had already fallen.

The heaviest snow, though, was forecast for later in the day into Sunday in the Massachusetts Berkshires, the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut, southwestern New Hampshire and the southern Green Mountains.

“It’s going to be wet, sticky and gloppy,” said NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro. “It’s not going to be a dry, fluffy snow.”

The storm comes on a busy weekend for many along the Eastern Seaboard, with trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in search of Halloween booty, hunting season opening in some states and a full slate of college and pro football scheduled. Officials warned that the heavy, wet snow combined with fully leafed trees could lead to downed tree branches and power lines, resulting in power outages and blocked roads.

Snow toppled trees and a few power lines in eastern Pennsylvania and led to minor traffic accidents, according to dispatchers. Allentown, expected to see 4 to 8 inches, is likely to break the city’s October record of 2.2 inches on Halloween in 1925.

Philadelphia was seeing mostly rain, but what snow fell coated downtown roofs in white. The city was expected to get 1 to 3 inches, its first measurable October snow since 1979, with a bit more in some suburbs, meteorologist Mitchell Gaines said.

“This is very, very unusual,” said John LaCorte, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College. The last major widespread snowstorm to hit Pennsylvania this early was in 1972, he said.

“It’s going to be very dangerous,” he added.

The storm also led to delays at several airports Saturday morning. Flights were delayed at Newark, N.J., and flights headed to New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports or Philadelphia’s airport weren’t allowed to depart until early afternoon.

Southern New Jersey was soaked with heavy rains and winds that ranged from 20 to 35 mph Saturday morning, while northern communities awaited the arrival of 5 to 10 inches of snow.

Snow began to fall in bursts in New York City by late morning. It was driving at times, but mixed with periods of rain that prevented any accumulation on the warm pavement. It was accumulating on rooftops and cars by early afternoon.

October snowfall is rare in New York; there have been just three October days with measurable snowfall in Central Park in the last 135 years when record-keeping began, according to the National Weather Service. The largest on record was in 1925 when eight-tenths of an inch fell in Central Park.

Along the coast and in such cities as Boston, relatively warm water temperatures along the Atlantic seaboard could keep the snowfall totals much lower, meteorologist Bill Simpson said, with 1 to 3 inches of snowfall forecast along the I-95 corridor. Washington was expected to get just a dusting.

But October snowfall records could be broken in parts of southern New England, especially at higher elevations, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson said. The October record for southern New England is 7.5 inches in Worcester in 1979.

More than 6 inches of snow could accumulate in parts of Maine on Saturday. Parts of southern Vermont could receive more than a foot of wet snow Saturday into Sunday.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned residents that they could lose power due to the anticipated wet, heavy snow.

Dan Patrylak recently moved from Arizona back to New England and was looking forward to seeing snow on the ground again, happily picking up two new ice scrapers in Connecticut at the start of his weekend.

“In Phoenix, it’s 113 all summer long,” the 79-year-old Patrylak, of Glastonbury, said Friday. “So, it just depends on where you are and what the weather is and you learn to accept that. Whatever it is, I’m going to be ready for it.”

In New England, the first measurable snow usually falls in early December, and normal highs for late October are in the mid-50s.

“This is just wrong,” said Dee Lund of East Hampton, who was at a Glastonbury garage Friday getting four new tires for her car before a weekend road trip to New Hampshire.

Lund said that after last winter’s record snowfall, which left a 12-foot snow bank outside her house, she’d been hoping for a reprieve.

But not everyone was lamenting the unofficial arrival of winter.

Two Vermont ski resorts, Killington and Mount Snow, planned to start the ski season early by opening one trail each over the weekend, thanks to the recent snow and cold. Maine’s Sunday River ski resort also opened for the weekend.

In Hebron, Steve Hoffman had expected to sell a lot of fall fertilizer this weekend at his hardware store in Hebron. Instead, he spent Friday moving bags of ice melting pellets.

“We’re stocked up and we’ve already sold a few shovels,” Hoffman said. “We actually had one guy come in and buy a roof rake.”

Simpson cautioned that the early snowfall is not an indication of what the winter might bring.

“This doesn’t mean our winter is going to be terrible,” he said. “You can’t get any correlation from a two-day event.”

Temperatures should return to the mid-50s by midweek.

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Associated Press writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia, David B. Caruso in New York, Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., and Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.