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Latest wintry blast kicks up powerful winds and heavy snow

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DAVID N. GOODMAN
December 17, 2007
— A pre-winter blend of snow, sleet and freezing rain cut visibility and iced over highways from the Great Lakes to New England, dumping more than 10 inches of snow in parts of Michigan and Vermont, stranding air and road travelers and causing a jetliner to skid off a runway.

School districts across the region – including Michigan’s largest, in Detroit – canceled classes for Monday. Slippery roads were blamed for two traffic deaths over the weekend in Michigan, and one each in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.


Before the snowfall eased up Sunday night, 10.5 inches had fallen in Michigan’s Ann Arbor, and a similar amount in Jackson County, the National Weather Service said.


“It’s winter,” said Ann Arbor resident Linda Thelen, 53, as she and her husband dug out their home. “I expect a couple of these each year.”


Most of northern Ohio was expected to remain under a wind advisory until Monday morning, with gusts as strong as 40 mph and blowing snow expected to reduce visibility for drivers near Lake Erie, the National Weather Service said.


In Rhode Island, a U.S. Airways Express Flight from Philadelphia carrying 31 passengers and three crew members slid off the runway as it tried to land at T.F. Green Airport, which got nearly 8 inches of snow, the Providence Journal reported on its Web site. No injuries were reported, but the airport had to close its runways for about 21/2 hours, spokespeople told the newspaper.


The storm canceled hundreds of flights at airports in Chicago and about 300 flights at Boston’s busy Logan International Airport. Flights were also canceled at airports in Portland, Maine; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Manchester, N.H.


Few major problems – though plenty of delays – were reported at airports in Philadelphia and the New York area, which had braced for plenty of snow but got mostly sleet and rain.


Every available plow truck was at work in Vermont, said Reggie Brown, highway department dispatcher in Montpelier. “Everybody’s out and running,” he said.


A winter storm warning remained in effect until 7 a.m. Monday in upstate New York cities from Buffalo to Albany. Parts of Franklin County had more than 15 inches.


Braving the elements Sunday in New York were fans of teen singer Hannah Montana, whose concert in Rochester drew Jolene Horton and her 8-year-old daughter, Paxtyn Brown.


They spent five hours on the road from Schuyler County in the Finger Lakes. “Normally it would have taken 2 1/2 hours, but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Horton said.


AAA Michigan said it helped more than 3,000 motorists on Sunday. Most had spun out, gotten stuck in a ditch or couldn’t start their vehicles, spokeswoman Nancy Cain said.


Many churches hit by the storm canceled Sunday morning services as law enforcement officials encouraged motorists to stay off the roads, if possible, until conditions improved.


The storm led several museums, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Port Huron Museum, to close their doors for the day because of the weather.


University of Michigan’s winter commencement in nearby Ann Arbor was held as scheduled on Sunday afternoon. Rasheed Mathis, 27, drove from Detroit to see his cousin graduate.


“It was nasty,” he said of the drive. “Just nasty, but he came to see me graduate and I wanted to be there for him.”


The storm also didn’t keep fans away from the New England Patriots-New York Jets game at Foxborough, Mass., but they had to shovel off their seats in the stadium. A video of a fire roaring in a fireplace was shown on the scoreboards.


In northeast Pennsylvania, ice and high winds toppled two 800-foot television towers on Penobscot Mountain in Luzerne County, knocking several stations off the air for many viewers.


The storm came less than a week after an ice storm in the Midwest and Northeast that was blamed for at least 38 deaths, mostly in traffic accidents. Thousands of homes and businesses still had no electricity in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.


In Oklahoma City on Sunday, utility crews worked to restore electricity to more than 150,000 homes and businesses that remained without power.


While the utility companies reported significant progress, it was little solace to Choctaw resident Beverly Smith, whose trailer in the southern part of the city remained without power Sunday for the seventh straight day.


“We don’t have anywhere to go,” said Smith, who lives in the trailer with her 15-year-old son. “We’re out of money. Christmas is nine days away, and I have no hope of giving my family a Christmas all.”


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Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.



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