BOSTON — Much of New England continued to dig out from under more than 2 feet of snow and children in hundreds of communities enjoyed a second day off from school Thursday as power companies worked to restore energy to homes and businesses darkened by the region’s third snowstorm in three weeks.
The winter storm that crippled the South earlier this week tread more lightly as it moved Northeast, before joining forces Wednesday with a system from the Midwest. The storms announced their arrival in New England with claps of thunder and record amounts of snowfall in some cities.
As the storm swept north, the National Weather Service reported snow on the ground in every state except Florida. That included Hawaii, which had 7 inches on the top of the Mauna Kea mountain. The winter weather was blamed for at least 18 deaths since Sunday when snow and ice hit the South.
Forecasters predicted sunshine Thursday in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, accompanied by wind gusts and temperatures below freezing. Snow showers and strong winds should blow over Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“People will still have to bundle up to go out to dig out of their driveways and sidewalks,” meteorologist Rebecca Gould said.
Scores of schools, businesses and government offices closed Wednesday, and some, including schools in Boston and Providence, R.I., planned to stay closed Thursday.
Airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights, mostly in the snowy Northeast, but said travelers wouldn’t be stuck for days as they were after a Christmas weekend storm. New York accounted for half the canceled flights, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
Commuter rail service was delayed or suspended across the region, and Amtrak suspended service between New York City and Boston because of damage to the overhead power system south of Boston.
While motorists were warned to stay off the roads, Josh Clukey, 24, of Eastford, Conn., had no choice. He ventured out when his pregnant wife began showing signs of labor early Wednesday. The drive to a hospital in Willimantic, normally 25 minutes, lasted a harrowing hour.
“It was a little scary. It was dark, and the snow was blowing all over the place,” said Clukey, whose son, Ryland James, was born at 8:42 a.m. “There was maybe only about 6 inches on the roads at the time, but the plows hadn’t come out yet.”
In Maine, winds that gusted to 48 mph in Portland and 50 mph in Brooklin knocked out electricity for more than 7,000 Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. customers at the storm’s peak, officials said. Some places in the state could see 20 inches of snow by the time final measurements are taken, said weather service meteorologist John Jensenius.
In Portland, people who had the day off used Twitter and Facebook to organize a snowball fight, resulting in a so-called flash mob with dozens of young people in Deering Oaks Park.
“We heard there was going to be a big snowstorm. We said, ‘Hey we’re not working tomorrow so we should have a snowball fight.’ It’s sort of like being a kid again,” said Scott Collins, 27.
Boston accumulated a one-day record 11.6 inches; Worcester, Mass., 15.5 inches; Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport 22.5 inches, and Providence, R.I., 6.9 inches. High snowfall tallies also included 26.3 inches in Chesterfield, Mass., 27 inches in Manchester, Conn., and 21.2 inches in West Gloucester, R.I.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said the storm left more than 100,000 people without power or heat by noon. He declared a state of emergency. Scattered power outages were reported in Connecticut, Rhode Island and elsewhere in the region.
By Wednesday night, National Grid said 7,000 electricity customers in Massachusetts remained without power, down from about 75,000 during the height of the storm.
In New York, where city leaders took heavy criticism for their slow work after a Dec. 26 blizzard, officials rolled out a massive response that quickly cleared the streets. They also received some help from nature, with only 9 inches of snow falling in Central Park — well short of 20 inches in last month’s storm.