Northeast Snowstorm Turns Highways Deadly

Highways and sidewalks turned treacherous Saturday for the millions of people living in the Northeast as the area's first big storm of the season piled up nearly a foot of blowing snow, grounding airline flights and postponing SAT college exams and football games. At least six deaths were blamed on the storm.

Snow fell at a rate of about an inch an hour at Binghamton, N.Y., and the National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for parts of Maine, Connecticut, southeastern New York and New Jersey. Stiff wind blew the snow sideways in places and whipped up rough surf along the coast.

Meteorologists warned that as much as 2 feet of snow was possible by Sunday in parts of Massachusetts and Vermont. A foot of snow already had fallen by midday Saturday in western Maryland and northern New Jersey.

"What we're seeing now is the tip of the iceberg," meteorologist Roger Hill of Worcester, Vt., said Saturday morning. "The beast is going to be here shortly."

The snow was too deep for some of man's best friends.

In Swampscott, Mass., Phil MacLaughlin said it wasn't easy walking his Chihuahua, El Jefe. "He won't go in the snow because he'd be snout deep," MacLaughlin said.

The first wave of snow struck Friday, and by Saturday highways were coated with layers of snow and slush.

"The roads out there are really, really bad, very slippery," said Kory Kiser, 25, of North Windham, Conn., who in spite of the storm was at work as a contract cable TV installer.

Community and church groups canceled activities Saturday from Pennsylvania into Maine, and many school districts postponed SAT college entrance tests. High school football championships were postponed in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

"Hopefully people won't go out unless they have to. There will be other weekends to Christmas shop - this isn't the one," said Rhode Island State Police Sgt. Scott Hemingway.

Not all shoppers heeded the advice. Many jammed supermarkets to stock up on groceries. And Jeff Campbell, 36, of Hamden, Conn., braved the roads to buy his 15-month-old daughter, Paige, a sled.

"It's worth it," Campbell said. "This is the first time she will remember being in the snow."

A Manhattan tribute to singer Lena Horne was postponed, and Bruce Springsteen's Saturday night Christmas concert at Asbury, N.J., the seaside resort where he rose to fame, was called off until Monday.

Friday's Springsteen show went on as scheduled but there were a few empty seats. "I don't know how you got here, but I'm glad you did," he told the hundreds of fans who did show up.

Air travel was a mess.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at the New York metropolitan area's La Guardia , Kennedy and Newark airports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported. Of the more than 800 landings and departures scheduled Saturday at Boston's Logan airport, 325 were canceled by midday, said spokesman Phil Orlandella.

Hundreds of travelers had spent the night camped out at La Guardia. Sherry Long was scheduled to leave La Guardia at 11 a.m. Friday to fly home to Miami. Saturday afternoon, she was still at the airport. She was booked on another flight, but said "there's no guarantee."

The storm was blamed for at least six traffic deaths, one in Pennsylvania, one in Connecticut, and two each in New Jersey and Virginia.

Off the coast, about 80 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, wind gusting up to 60 mph caused 18-foot seas Saturday as the 72-foot trawler Miss Judith drifted with its engines disabled, the Coast Guard said. Officials said a ship would be sent to help the four-member crew when the weather permited.

But in New England, ski areas cheered the storm.

"The parking lots are full right now. It feels like a midwinter weekend," said Mike Colbourn, vice president of marketing for Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.