PORTLAND, Maine — Northern New Englanders on Sunday are dealing with the effects of a major snowstorm that has dumped more than a foot of snow in places accompanied by high winds, dangerous driving conditions and widespread power outages.
Snow continued through most of Maine on Sunday morning, and more was expected during the day before exiting later Sunday. The National Weather Service was calling it a “potentially damaging and historic October snowstorm.”
The heavy wet snow brought down tree branches and power lines, resulting in power outages across Maine and the region. Central Maine Power spokesman John Carroll reported more than 100,000 customers without power as of 7 a.m., mostly in southern and western Maine. Bangor Hydro Electric reported 7,234outages, with more than 5,000 in Penobscot County.
An unseasonably early snowstorm that blanketed parts of states from Maryland to Maine, knocking out power to millions and snarling air and highway travel, was forecast to slowly move north out of New England and officials warned it could be days before many see electricity restored.
The heavy, wet October snow, falling atop leaf-laden trees and driven by frigid, gusting winds, brought down branches and power lines and put the Northeast on notice that winter is around the corner. More than 2.3 million customers from Maryland to New England lost power due to the storm by early Sunday.
Governors declared states of emergency in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York, and at least three deaths were blamed on the weather, including an 84-year-old Pennsylvania man killed when a tree fell on his home while he was napping in his recliner.
Some 700,000 lost power in Connecticut, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cautioned that some homes and business without electricity may be in for a long haul.
“If you are without power, you should expect to be without power for a prolonged period of time,” Malloy said Saturday night.
Snow was forecast to stop falling in New England late Sunday as the storm tracks toward Nova Scotia, but not before accumulating up to 2 feet in some areas of Massachusetts. Some inland towns in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York saw more than a foot of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
New York City’s Central Park set a record for both the date and the month of October with 1.3 inches of snow.
Communities in western Massachusetts were among the hardest hit. Windsor, Mass., had received 26 inches by early Sunday, and nearby Plainfield saw 24½ inches, and Savoy 24. West Milford, N.J., about 45 miles northwest of New York City, had received 19 inches of snow by early Sunday.
In addition to high number of customers without electricity in Connecticut, there were more than 600,000 in New Jersey — including Gov. Chris Christie — and a half-million in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania without power.
PSE&G, New Jersey’s largest electric and gas utility, warned customers in a statement on its website to prepare for “potentially lengthy outages” and advised that full restoration of power might not happen until Wednesday.
Officials throughout the region had warned that the early storm would bring sticky snow on the heels of the week’s warmer weather and could create dangerous conditions. In addition to declarations in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for 13 counties.
“It’s a little startling. I mean, it’s only October,” said Craig Brodur, who was playing keno with a friend at Northampton Convenience in western Massachusetts.
By early Sunday, the storm had vacated Pennsylvania and New Jersey and was tracking northeast.
Transportation officials early Sunday advised against any unnecessary travel on I-87 between New York and Albany and along I-90 in the Albany area due to heavy snow.
The storm was expected to worsen as it swept north. Wind gusts of up to 55 mph were predicted especially along coastal areas.
The heaviest snow in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine was set to fall early Sunday. Parts of southern Vermont could receive more than a foot.
The first measurable snow in New England usually falls in early December, and normal highs for late October are in the mid-50s.
Along the coast and in cities such as Boston, relatively warm water temperatures helped keep snowfall totals much lower. Washington received a trace of snow, tying a record for the date set in 1925.
But not everyone was lamenting the unofficial arrival of winter.
Two Vermont ski resorts, Killington and Mount Snow, started the ski season early by opening one trail each over the weekend, thanks to the recent snow and cold. Maine’s Sunday River ski resort also opened for the weekend.
Some said the severity of the storm caught them by surprise.
“This is absolutely a lot more snow than I expected to see today. I can’t believe it’s not even Halloween and it’s snowing already,” Carole Shepherd of Washington Township, N.J., said after shoveling her driveway.
The storm disrupted travel along the Eastern Seaboard. Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport all had hourslong delays Saturday. Amtrak suspended service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., and commuter trains in Connecticut and New York were delayed or suspended because of downed trees and signal problems.
Residents were urged to avoid travel altogether. Speed limits were reduced on bridges between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A few roads closed because of accidents and downed trees and power lines, and more were expected, said Sean Brown, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The storm came on a busy weekend for many, with trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in search of Halloween booty, hunting season opening in some states and a full slate of college and pro football scheduled.
In eastern Pennsylvania, snow caused widespread problems, toppling trees and a few power lines, and led to minor traffic accidents, according to dispatchers. In Huffs Church, in Berks County, southwest of Allentown, 16 inches of snow fell.
Philadelphia saw mostly rain, but the snow that did fall coated downtown roofs in white. The last major widespread snowstorm to hit Pennsylvania this early was in 1972, said John LaCorte, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, an 84-year-old man was killed when a snow-laden tree fell on his home while he was napping in his recliner. In Connecticut, the governor said one person died in a Colchester traffic accident that he blamed on slippery conditions.
In Massachusetts, a 20-year-old man died in Springfield after being electrocuted by a power line downed by high winds and wet, heavy snow. Capt. William Collins says the man stopped when he saw police and firefighters examining downed wires and stepped in the wrong place.
Parts of New York saw a mix of snow, rain and slush that made for sheer misery at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City, where drenched protesters hunkered down in tents and under tarps as the plaza filled with rainwater and melted snow.
Technically, tents are banned in the park, but protesters say authorities have been looking the other way, even despite a crackdown on generators that were keeping them warm.
Nick Lemmin, 25, of Brooklyn, was spending his first night at the encampment. He was one of a handful of protesters still at the park early Sunday.
“I had to come out and support,” he said. “The underlying importance of this is such that you have to weather the cold.”
Adash Daniel, 24, is a protester who had been at the park for three weeks. He had a sleeping bag and cot that he was going to set up, but changed his mind.
“I’m not much good to this movement if I’m shivering,” he said as he left the park.
October snowfall is rare in New York, and Saturday marked just the fourth October day with measurable snowfall in Central Park since record-keeping began 135 years ago, the National Weather Service said.
The Associated Press and BDN staff contributed to this report.