A rare and dangerous spring blizzard with winds ranging up to 65 miles an hour tore through the New York metropolitan area today, forcing traffic to a standstill, shutting down airports and bringing the business of daily life briefly and dramatically to a halt.

By this evening, the blizzard, termed "life-threatening" by the National Weather Service, had dropped 10 inches of snow on Manhattan and 12 inches in some suburbs. In upstate New York, 17 inches was reported.

It was New York City's heaviest snowstorm of the year, and its first April blizzard since 1869.

Snowstorms of nearly equal ferocity swept from Ohio through New England, closing schools and offices and hopelessly snarling traffic.

As many as 50 cars piled up at the junction of Routes 290 and 495 near Marlborough, Mass., 30 miles west of Boston. "It was like someone breaking a rack of pool balls," said one motorist. "Cars were sliding all over the place." Residents of Boston, remembering the Blizzard of '78 that shut down most of the state for more than a week, jammed into grocery stores to stock up on food.

A search for 11 campers missing in the snowy Catskill Mountains in upstate New York was called off at nightfall. Earlier, 13 other campers were found safe.

In New York City, where a weather service forecaster said blizzards were "unheard of in the month of April," the shops were filled with the trappings of Easter but the sidewalks had a Christmas frosting.

In Greenwich Village, in early afternoon, a lone skier was seen negotiating the slushy streets. The pink blossoms of fuchsia in front of the New York Hilton sagged beneath a snowy covering.

And up in the Bronx, at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees suffered a historic first: their opening game was canceled because of snow, as were season openers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago.

The National Weather Service said the blizzard was a result of two storms that collided over the city in early morning, one the storm that had carved a path of destruction across the Midwest Monday, the other a storm that had been building along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Those storms collided over the area at about 2 a.m., first bringing freezing rain, then the unusual combination of thunder and snow. That phenomenon, termed a "very rare occurrence" by NWS radar meteorologist Ralph Izzo, was created by the instability of the two storms.

"Spring is wrestling with winter for control," he said.

For much of the day it looked as if winter had won.

LaGuardia and Kennedy airports closed, as did Newark's and Logan International in Boston.

The storm piled drifts up to 15 feet high in northwestern Pennsylvania, and dropped a foot of snow on Cleveland, bringing the season total to a record 110 inches.

Temperatures dipped below freezing from the Texas Panhandle through New England, and residents of midwestern communities awoke to the coldest April weather ever. The temperature at International Falls, Minn.--renowned for its inclement winter weather--was 11 degrees below zero, a record low for April.