An early nor'easter, given a boost by a speeding Hurricane Wilma, today battered the Northeast with huge waves, high winds and pelting rain, causing flight delays and cancellations and prompting severe weather warnings from New Jersey to New England.
The storm came as New England was still cleaning up from flooding earlier in the month.
Thousands of power outages were reported in Massachusetts and Connecticut, news agencies reported. Twenty-foot waves slammed against the New Jersey shore. Dozens of flights were canceled at Boston's Logan Airport early today, and Newark, Philadelphia and New York City airports reported flight delays of up to 3 1/2 hours this morning.
The nor'easter was gaining moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Wilma, which was racing offshore up the coast of the northeastern United States at more than 50 mph.
The National Weather Service posted coastal flood warnings from New Jersey to Connecticut and high wind warnings for the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut coasts, forecasting sustained winds of up to 40 mph with gusts reaching 65 miles. It predicted the storm mixture would soak New England with 2 to 4 inches of rain and bring snow to northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
Eight and a half inches of snow closed schools and downed tree limbs in Garrett County, in far western Maryland, and the first snow of the season was also falling near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. The National Weather Service says that region could get up to a foot of snow as cold air from the nor'easter bumps up against the remnants of Wilma.
Air travel was even more disrupted in the south by Wilma, which roared across Florida in about seven hours yesterday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wilma forced the closure of nine Florida airports, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood and Palm Beach. The closures stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers and disrupted hundreds of flights to Latin America.
Washington Post staff writer Henri Cauvin reported from Miami that Cynthia Martinez, a spokesman for Miami-Dade County, said the airport there was expected to begin operating commercial flights sometime after 5 p.m. Miami International Airport is the busiest U.S. hub for Latin American travel.
Officials said it could be midweek before compete normal service resumes at all the major Florida airports, meaning hundreds of thousands of fliers will be further inconvenienced and the beleaguered airline industry will lose millions of dollars in revenue. Repairs were being made to roofs, fences and loading bridges at Miami airport, news agencies reported.
Some airports were rendered inaccessible by downed trees and other debris on access roads. Boca Raton airport lost most of its hangars and Hollywood-North Perry sustained damage to its tower and roof, according to news agency reports. The runway at Key West is under water, officials said.
In Washington, the White House announced that President Bush will travel to Florida Thursday to survey the damage wrought by Wilma, estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan did not specify exactly where in Florida Bush would visit, however.
The severest damage from the storm appeared to be concentrated on the state's east coast from West Palm Beach to Miami, even though Wilma made landfall at Cape Romano, south of Naples and just west of Everglades City.