PHILADELPHIA — A spring nor’easter packing soaking rain and high winds churned up the East Coast, unleashing a burst of winter and up to a foot of snow in higher elevations inland and sparking concerns of potential power outages and a wild commute to start the work week in the Northeast.
“It’s unusual, but not unheard of,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College, Pa., where the eastern part of the state saw a rain event, and the west, northwest and higher elevations dealt with snow.
Up to 12 inches of snow was expected in the higher elevations of central and western Pennsylvania, as well as New York state, south of Buffalo. A winter storm warning was issued for parts of northeastern Ohio, where 3-7 inches of snow was forecast.
From the New Jersey shore north through New York City and into southern New England the coastal storm was expected to bring up to 4 inches of rain, with the heaviest early Monday.
Sustained winds of 20-30 mph were predicted throughout the Northeast, and gusts of up to 50 mph were expected off Cape Cod, Matthew Belk of the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., said late Sunday.
Flood advisories and warnings were issued throughout the Northeast.
In the areas blanketed by April snow, a slippery and slushy Monday morning commute was expected.
One of the biggest concerns with the storm was the potential for power outages due to limbs and branches weighed down by heavy snow falling onto power lines.
Buffalo-based weather service meteorologist Sean Smith said the slow-moving storm could linger of the Northeast through Monday before moving out sometime Tuesday.
The Sunday storm caused plenty of disruptions. Major League Baseball postponed games in Boston, New York and Washington. The scheduled arrival of the space shuttle Enterprise in New York City was pushed back, and an Earth Day celebration at a park in Virginia Beach, Va., was canceled.
The rainfall was a welcome in parts of the Northeast, which is below normal for this time of year.
“We’re down 7 or 8 inches,” weather service forecaster Charlie Foley said. “This won’t completely wipe out the deficit but it will certainly help.”
Even Lake Champlain on the Vermont-New York border, normally close to flood stage this time of year because of rain and snowmelt, is near a record low. Just a year ago, it approached its highest level on record.
Another unseasonable nor’easter last year just before Halloween dumped up to 2 feet of wet, heavy snow that snapped tree limbs and power lines and knocked out power to more than 3 million customers in the Northeast. In Connecticut, it broke a state record for the number of power company customers left in the dark by a single storm that had been set only two months earlier when the remnants of Hurricane Irene slammed the state as it barreled up the Eastern Seaboard.
The worst of the flooding from Irene was in Vermont and northern New York, where cleanups continue seven months later. Farmers are still grappling with crop-smothering rocks, trees, gravel and sand left behind when the flood waters receded. But the dry weather has eased the threat the debris that litters the landscape will rush downriver again.
Farther south, the rain intensified throughout the day Sunday over the Baltimore and Washington metro areas, where drivers were warned drivers to beware of low visibility and slick roadways. Boaters on the Chesapeake Bay were cautioned about the winds.
In Florida, a woman had to be rescued Saturday night during thunderstorms after disappearing while out on Tampa Bay. She was unfamiliar with her watercraft and also unfamiliar with the bay and got stuck on an island, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. Officers found her soon after she was reported missing, as severe thunderstorms loomed overhead and she frantically called for help.
In Rockport, Mass., the storm forced authorities to halt until Tuesday a search for a missing 2-year-old girl who apparently disappeared from a beach Thursday when her mother went to retrieve a lost ball. The beach is known for strong riptides.
Authorities in New York also suspended work that began last week on digging up a basement in a search for the remains of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who disappeared in 1979 on his walk to his school bus stop.