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Large, Powerful Storm Heads East; at Least 6 Dead

A foot or more of snow is expected inland from western New York to Maine
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 26, 7:28 p.m. ET

James Hill, of Shamokin, Pa., rides his bicycle in Coal Township, Pa. through the snow on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. (AP)

A powerful winter storm system pounded the nation's midsection Wednesday and headed toward the Northeast, where people braced for the high winds and heavy snow that disrupted holiday travel and knocked out power to thousands of homes. The storm was blamed for at least six deaths.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed, scores of motorists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and blizzard warnings were issued amid snowy gusts of 30 mph that blanketed roads and windshields, at times causing whiteout conditions.

"The way I've been describing it is as a low-end blizzard, but that's sort of like saying a small Tyrannosaurus rex," said John Kwiatkowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

The system, which spawned Gulf Coast region tornadoes on Christmas Day and a historic amount of snow in Arkansas, pushed through the Upper Ohio Valley and headed toward the Northeast. Forecasts called for 12 to 18 inches of snow inland from western New York to Maine starting late Wednesday and into Thursday and tapering off into a mix of rain and snow closer to the coast, where little accumulation was expected in such cities as New York and Boston.

The storm left freezing temperatures in its aftermath, and forecasters also said parts of the Southeast from Virginia to Florida would see severe thunderstorms.

Schools on break and workers taking holiday vacations meant that many people could avoid messy commutes, but those who had to travel were implored to avoid it. Snow was blamed for scores of vehicle accidents as far east as Maryland, and about two dozen counties in Indiana and Ohio issued snow emergency travel alerts, urging people to go out on the roads only if necessary.

Some 40 vehicles got bogged down trying to make it up a slick hill in central Indiana, and four state snowplows slid off roads as snow fell at the rate of 3 inches an hour in some places.

Two passengers in a car on a sleet-slickened Arkansas highway were killed Wednesday in a head-on collision, and two people, including a 76-year-old Milwaukee woman, were killed Tuesday on Oklahoma highways. Deaths from wind-toppled trees were reported in Texas and Louisiana.

The day after a holiday wasn't expected to be particularly busy for AAA, but its Cincinnati-area branch had its busiest Wednesday of the year. By mid-afternoon, nearly 400 members had been helped with tows, jump starts and other aid, with calls still coming in, spokesman Mike Mills said.

Jennifer Miller, 58, was taking a bus Wednesday from Cincinnati to visit family in Columbus.

"I wish this had come yesterday and was gone today," she said, struggling with a rolling suitcase and three smaller bags on a slushy sidewalk near the station. "I'm glad I don't have to drive in this."

Traffic crawled at 25 mph on Interstate 81 in Maryland, where authorities reported scores of accidents.

"We're going to try to go down south and get below" the storm, said Richard Power, traveling from home in Levittown, N.Y., to Kentucky with his wife, two children and their beagle, Lucky. He said they were well on their way until they hit snow in Pennsylvania, then 15-mph traffic on I-81 at Hagerstown, Md. "We're going to go as far as we can go. ... If it doesn't get better, we're going to just get a hotel."

More than 1,400 flights were canceled by evening, according to FlightAware.com, and some airlines said they would waive change fees. Delays of more than an hour were reported Wednesday at the three New York City-area airports, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

In Arkansas, some of the nearly 200,000 people who lost power could be without it for as long as a week because of snapped poles and wires after ice and 10 inches of snow coated power lines, said the state's largest utility, Entergy Arkansas. Gov. Mike Beebe sent out National Guard teams, and Humvees transported medical workers and patients. Snow hadn't fallen in Little Rock on Christmas since 1926, but the capital ended Tuesday with 10.3 inches of it.

Other states also had scattered outages. Duke Energy said it had nearly 300 outages in Indiana, with few left in Ohio by early afternoon after scores were reported in the morning.

As the storm moved east, New England state highway departments were treating roads and getting ready to mobilize with snowfall forecasts of a foot or more that was expected to start falling late Wednesday and through Thursday.

"People are picking up salt and a lot of shovels today," said Andy Greenwood, an assistant manager at Aubuchon Hardware in Keene, N.H.

As usual, winter-sports enthusiasts welcomed the snow. At Smiling Hill Farm in Maine, Warren Knight was hoping for enough snow to allow the opening of trails.

"We watch the weather more carefully for cross-country skiing than we do for farming. And we're pretty diligent about farming. We're glued to the weather radio," said Knight, who described the weather at the 500-acre farm in Westbrook as being akin to the prizes in "Cracker Jacks - we don't know what we're going to get."

Behind the storm, Mississippi's governor declared states of emergency in eight counties with more than 25 people reported injured and 70 homes left damaged.

Cindy Williams, 56, stood near a home in McNeill, Miss., where its front had collapsed into a pile of wood and brick, a balcony and the porch ripped apart. Large oak trees were uprooted and winds sheared off treetops in a nearby grove. But she focused instead on the fact that all her family members had escaped harm.

"We are so thankful," she said. "God took care of us."

PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Winter Storm Hits on Christmas, Heads East

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Linda Pauley

pipper62@aol.com

January 24 2013 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ldyqtee6

A major part of the problem is that people don't exercise common sense. There is no need to be out on the roads during a storm except for extreme emergencies; going to work is not an emergency.

December 26 2012 at 9:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gary p.

lol, ooooh man!!!!

December 26 2012 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
xtriippyx

2012

December 26 2012 at 6:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
zapdog4

Storms are continually killing innocent people. We need more laws restricting bad weather just like guns to keep our people safe.

December 26 2012 at 6:52 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zapdog4's comment
gary p.

what a dip so when the law breaker that dont live by the law breaks into ur house or carjacks or jumps you on the streets dog you call the police and im sure you'll be dead before the call goes out

December 26 2012 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beardancing2

Mr. Secrest. Amen.
I am honored by your reference. Seeing the words Warrior, Honor and Peace in the same sentence give me hope. Seeing them together in the company of a humble dancing bear makes me think of Kipling, who knew a thing or two about them all.

December 26 2012 at 6:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to beardancing2's comment
laddagokid

It's nice to just look at the snow on the tv.

December 26 2012 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jwfilippi

How many storms does it take to realize that DISTRIBUTED POWER is what is needed? Congressman/Senator/ Mr. Oil Lobby???? Wake up please!


Construction of world's largest fuel cell power plant. (in South Korea? with USA developed fuel cell technology??)
http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2012/october/construction-of-worlds-largest-fuel-cell-power-plant-expected-to-commence-in-2012

and

2.8MW fuel cell using biogas now operating; Largest PPA of its kind in North America
http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2012/october/28-mw-fuel-cell-using-biogas-now-operating-largest-ppa-of-its-kind-in-north-america

one more....

"Completely off the grid in New Jersey"

http://energy.aol.com/2011/08/13/completely-off-the-grid/

This is a good one too!
"New fuel cell sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world's first"
http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/orange_county&id=8310315

"It is here today and it is deployable today," said Tom Mutchler of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a sponsor and developer of the project.

December 26 2012 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
searay0301

Storms have been around since the beginning of time. Relax. When driving if you have to, slow down, be thoughtful of others. The biggest problem is the media sensationalizing every POTENTIAL storm. To the point of being irresponsible. I just wonder if there would have been fewer deaths for an example when hurricane Sandy struck. Just maybe more people would have taken heed and go to safer grounds. It's like the little boy who cried wolf too often. Eventually warnings fall on deaf ears. Forget your ratings. Do a professional job

December 26 2012 at 5:46 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to searay0301's comment
Sascha

You said it! People just need to keep their head straight and be aware of their surroundings...which unfortunately is very hard for most considering we live in such a self important spoiled brat society...I ride a bike and have had too many close calls with being hit...and that's with a blinking head light and blinking tail light!

December 26 2012 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ccdae5

Nice Christmas snowstorm here in the Midwest, almost a foot of snow with some drifting, it's beautiful in the woods. Done shoveling and enjoying some hot tea in front of the fire........ wake me up before it's time for bed.

December 26 2012 at 5:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
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