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Nor'easter pummels state, but causes little damage

HARTFORD (AP) -- The most intense winter storm of the season barreled through the Northeast Sunday, dumping more than a foot of snow in Connecticut but causing no fatalities or widespread power outages in the state.

The National Weather Service said a powerful winter storm produced moderate to heavy snow across most of southern New England with periods of near blizzard conditions across northeast Connecticut, Rhode Island and much of eastern Massachusetts.

State police on Sunday reported 44 vehicle accidents, but no fatalities, said spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance.

"So far, so good," he said.

Four-wheel drive and specialty vehicles operated by the state police are patrolling state highways to help motorists who are stranded or otherwise in trouble, Vance said.

"It's pretty treacherous out there," he said. "Winds are blowing. It's very cold. Stay home."

Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the state emergency operations center at the state Armory in Hartford to open Saturday night to coordinate work by state and local officials.

Connecticut Light and Power reported 58 outages in the state at midmorning Sunday. Rell said she was told by CL&P that work crews are on standby in case high winds knock out power.

A call to the Berlin-based utility was not immediately returned Sunday morning.

The state Department of Transportation dispatched 632 trucks to plow and sand Connecticut roads and highways, the governor said. An additional 200 trucks operated by contractors were plying state roads, she said.

High winds are the "big challenge," reducing visibility and in some cases blowing snow back onto roadways after they are plowed, she said.

"The roads are in fairly good shape, but visibility is very much reduced," Rell said in a telephone interview Sunday. "There are near whiteout conditions."

Rell and Vance said the timing of the storm helped, with traffic typically light on Sundays. In addition, state government is closed Monday in observance of Lincoln's birthday, keeping more traffic off the roads.

Frank Nocera, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., said the storm will begin to wind down in central Connecticut at between noon and 2 p.m. Sunday.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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