A storm driving snows at near hurricane force howled across the Great Lakes region yesterday, wrecking homes and businesses, triggering floods and causing widespread blackouts.

At least 19 persons, including eight in Canada, died in the path of the storm, called one of the worst on record for April.

Winds of 65 mph and gusting above 90 mph in some places ripped down power lines, tore the roofs off buildings and sent ice floes crashing into lakeshore buildings.

The 325-foot Canadian ore freighter Labradoc broke up and started taking on water after it was lashed by 50 knot winds and 15-foot waves in icy Lake Erie about 18 miles northwest of Ashtabula, Ohio. A Coast Guard helicopter plucked the 20 crewmen to safety.

The crippled vessel remained afloat but listing.The Coast Guard vessel Mariposa was maintaining a position near the Labradoc and was expected to tow her to port if the heavy seas subsided.

Coast Guard spokesman Ray Massey in Cleveland said the Labradoc started sending out distress calls at 3:15 a.m. after part of the cargo of 160,000 bushels of corn shifted in a vicious lake storm and the ship began listing heavily to port. The freighter reported winds of up to 50 knots and 15-foot waves washing over the port deck.

The Labradoc was 18 miles north-west of Ashtabula, en route from Port Huron to Cardinal, Ont., at the time.

Power was shut off to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in several states at least temporarily.

Hundreds of schools were closed. Nine inches of snow fell in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., a record for the date, and 7.3 inches in the Houghton Lake area.

Chicago Fire Department officials said severe winds ripped loose several marble slabs from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. They fell 10 to 15 floors to the sidewalk off North Michigan Avenue. No injuries were reported.

At Sunset Bay, N.Y., about 30 miles southwest of Buffalo, waves from Lake Erie crashed ashore and damaged six houses and Mulligan's Beach Club.

Ice floes still lingering on the lake were blown ashore at Hoover Beach, also near Buffalo, damaging several homes. About 150 persons were evacuated.

In the metropolitan New York area, the Coast Guard closed Newark Bay to all ships as gale winds clocked at above 50 knots created hazardous conditions for ships riding high in the water.

The action sealed off the vast Port Elizabeth and Port Newark docks, where giant containerships link up with railheads and trucking terminals. A strike by 2,800 tugboat crewmen contributed to the problem. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, The ore carrier Labradoc founders in storm-tossed Lake Erie. All aboard were rescued. AP