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Northeast snowstorm tops 40 inches in spots as gusty winds hamper cleanup

Heavy, wet snow pasted large parts of the interior Northeast in what has easily become the biggest winter storm of the season

Heavy rain and snow began falling across interior regions of the Northeast and New England on March 13 and is not expected to slow down for several days. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Heavy, wet snow pasted large parts of the interior Northeast with up to several feet of accumulation Monday night into Wednesday morning, in what has easily become the biggest winter storm of a below-average snow season in the Northeast.

As the storm departs, gusty winds and cold temperatures will continue to hamper cleanup efforts into Wednesday evening. Most roads that were closed during the peak of the storm have since reopened, but crews will probably be clearing snow in the hardest-hit locations over the next several days. Many schools and businesses remained closed.

In photos: Coastal storm slams Northeast with heavy snow, rain and strong winds

More than two dozen reports of snowfall in the two- to three-feet range have come in from high elevations of the Catskills, the Berkshires, the Worcester Hills and mountain locations into northern New England. New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have all checked in with totals of three feet or more, with a maximum of more than 40 inches in New York.

There were massive differences in snow totals over short distances, often related to elevation but also enhanced by the development of intense snow bands. The big cities along the Interstate 95 corridor largely escaped significant accumulation, although Boston’s suburbs saw several inches fall and a coating or so was observed around the Big Apple.

The weight of the snow on trees and power lines, combined with strong winds, left as many as 350,000 customers without power Tuesday, according to About 175,000 customers were still in the dark Wednesday morning, primarily in New Hampshire and Maine.

After more than 1,000 flight cancellations Tuesday, mostly in Boston and New York, conditions were much improved but still far from normal Wednesday. Strong winds were causing flight delays of more than an hour at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday morning, with dozens of cancellations reported in the Northeast as well.

In Goffstown, N.H., about 50 miles northwest of Boston, the roof of the New Hampshire Sportsdome collapsed under the weight of snow early Wednesday morning; no injuries were reported. About 15 inches of snow fell at that location.

Elsewhere, part of a tree barely missed crushing a child in New Hampshire and a barn collapsed in Dracut, Mass. A plane slid off a taxiway in Syracuse on Tuesday, with no injuries reported.

Snowfall totals ranged from a few inches to more than three feet. Below are the highest totals from the main states affected:

  • Beacon, N.Y. — 43 inches
  • Landgrove, Vt. — 40 inches
  • Colrain, Mass. — 36 inches
  • Peterborough, N.H. — 35 inches
  • Acton, Maine — 22 inches
  • Granby, Conn. — 15 inches
  • Starrucca, Pa. — 9.5 inches
  • High Point, N.J. — 9.3 inches

At lower elevations, snowfall totals were generally an inch to several inches. Snow accumulations decreased dramatically heading toward the coast, where temperatures were near or above freezing for much of the storm.

In addition to the snow, gusts were also impressive, thanks to a large pressure difference between the storm’s low-pressure center (984 millibars) and an area of high pressure over the Great Lakes (1,032 millibars). The greater the pressure difference between areas of high and low pressure, the stronger the winds.

The worst of the wind was a bit displaced to the east and south of the heaviest snow, which may have helped limit power outages somewhat. The highest gusts spanned from the Washington area, northeastward along and near the coast, and into New England.

Peak gusts near Boston and New York City were around 45 to 50 mph. Gusts topped 50 mph in Atlantic City, Baltimore and Provincetown on Cape Cod. In places that saw heavy snow accumulation, winds mainly topped out in the 40 to 50 mph range.

Flood warnings continue through late this week in parts of southeast Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including the Pawtuxet River near Providence. As much as 2.5 to three inches of rain fell in these areas before a changeover to snow late Tuesday. Flooding has mostly been minor, but water has crept over roads and into parks.

While accumulating snow has largely wound down, periodic snow showers remain possible in New England through Wednesday amid temperatures reaching highs in the 30s to around 40. Some spots will only see an additional half-inch or so of snowfall, while mountains in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine could still pick up a few more inches.

Winds will also gust around 40 mph throughout the day, with some spots approaching 50 mph. This could lead to some additional outages in areas where heavy snow fell.

A brief warm up — and some rain — the next several days should melt off a good deal of the snow. Colder-than-normal air returns next week, and some models are hinting at the potential for another coastal storm around midweek, but forecast uncertainty is very high that far out.