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Update 26: Nor'easter Slams East From Va. to Maine
By SAMANTHA GROSS , 02.12.2006, 02:14 PM

A major storm slammed the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states on Sunday with nearly 2 feet of windblown snow, nearing record levels as it blacked out thousands of customers and shut down air travel from Washington to Boston.

Wind gusting as high as 60 mph blew the snow sideways and threatened coastal flooding in New England. And in a rare display, lightning lit up the falling snow before dawn in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

By late morning, 22.8 inches of snow had fallen in Central Park, the city's second heaviest snowfall on record, surpassed only by the 26.4 inches that fell in December 1947.

"This is a dangerous storm," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as he urged people to stay home.

Elsewhere, 21 inches of snow fell by early afternoon at Columbia, Md., between Baltimore and Washington, and at East Brunswick, N.J., Hartford, Conn., and West Caln Township west of Philadelphia, the National Weather Service said. Philadelphia's average for an entire winter is about 21 inches.

"It's going to be a menace trying to clean it up," Wayne, N.J., Mayor Scott T. Rumana said.

The storm interrupted a relatively mild winter in the Northeast. It also followed the nation's warmest January on record, when the average temperature was 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 8.5 degrees above average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The old record for January was 37.3 degrees set in 1953.

Radar showed snow falling from eastern Virginia to Maine during the morning as the nor'easter blew up the coast.

Few people ventured out into the storm if they didn't have to.

"I'm just out to get some doughnuts and coffee, then I'm going right back home," said Chris Vasili of East Brunswick, N.J. "It's not too good out here right now."

Karen Gulley of Mansfield, Mass., took her two young children to Boston to visit the New England Aquarium, but their plans changed to snowman-building because of the storm.

"It's their favorite thing to do," Gulley said.

Dozens of churches canceled services and the Philadelphia Phantoms minor league hockey team postponed Sunday's game because the team couldn't get home from Chicago.

The possibility of coastal flooding was a major concern for Massachusetts as wind hit 60 mph, said Peter Judge, spokesman for the state's Emergency Management Agency. Meteorologists predicted 2 1/2-foot storm surges from Cape Ann to Cape Cod with seas off the coast running up to 25 feet.

More than 80,000 customers were without power in Maryland, according to Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman Linda Foy. She said it could be at least 24 hours before power is fully restored.

"It's taking us a long time to even get to the locations where we can begin the restoration process," Foy said.

More than 60,000 customers were blacked out in northern Virginia, some 15,000 homes and businesses had no power in New Jersey, and scattered outages were reported on New York's Long Island and in Connecticut.

Most airlines canceled all flights at LaGuardia Airport, some of them until Monday, said Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Kennedy and Newark airports.

Delta said it also canceled Sunday arrivals and departures at Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. Washington's Reagan National Airport was closed until noon Sunday, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority said.

New Jersey Transit suspended all bus service statewide. Amtrak reported a few cancelations and delays but said most trains remained in service.

However, the storm was good news for ski resorts.

"The best thing for us is it puts snow in customers' back yards and they think of snowboarding and down hill (skiing)," said Carol Lugar, president of Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, Conn., which had 1 foot of snow by late Sunday morning.

"I personally love the snow," she said. "I like snow shoveling. If you shovel snow all winter you can paddle a kayak or canoe all summer."

Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi and Desmond Butler in New York City; Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J.; Sarah Brumfield in Baltimore, Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn.; and Brandie M. Jefferson in Boston contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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