By CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A nor'easter packing soaking rain and springtime snow churned up the Northeast on Monday, unleashing a burst of winter, closing some schools and triggering power outages in communities that were basking in record warmth a month ago.
The earliest hits were on higher ground, where snow-laden tree limbs pulled down power lines and commuters navigated slushy roads to work and school. Up to a foot of snow or more was forecast for higher elevations through Tuesday morning.
At the peak Monday, utilities reported about 50,000 customers without power in Pennsylvania and central and western New York.
Amy Shaulis, a waitress at the Summit Diner in Somerset, Pa., wondered if the storm was a bit of payback.
"We had a very, very light winter, we had summer in the middle of winter and now we're paying for it," she said.
Gov. Tom Corbett declared a disaster emergency and activated the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's state operations center. By early afternoon, electricity had been restored to about 8,000 of the 25,000 customers who had been without power in the state and predictions of heavy snow in Pittsburgh melted away as the temperature remained well above freezing.
It was a similar situation in Buffalo, where an alternating mix of rain and wet snow fell throughout the day but did not accumulate on the roads or trees as expected.
The National Weather Service canceled its winter storm warning for the Buffalo area and counties to the north and east in New York and a winter weather advisory for Allegheny and Washington counties in Pennsylvania.
A warning remained in effect through Tuesday for several counties along the New York-Pennsylvania border, where up to a foot of snow was still possible.
George Wallach, of Buffalo, said he'd gone to Home Depot for lawn fertilizer last week — never thinking he might need rock salt. Western New York saw a run of record-heat in March that included a St. Patrick's Day weekend in the 70s and an 82-degree reading in Buffalo March 22.
"I should learn not to plan anything till after May," he said, wet snow falling as he waited with parents outside a Buffalo elementary school to retrieve children after a half day that was scheduled in advance.
Kevin Fitzgerald, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College, Pa., called the snowstorm "unusual, but not unheard of."
While coming about a third of the way through spring, the storm was reminiscent of an unusual late fall storm that pummeled East Coast cities. But areas hit in October were spared the spring version.
Some schools in western Pennsylvania were closed Monday morning ahead of the storm. Districts in the state's Allegheny Mountains began announcing closings Sunday night.
Farther east, the threat was rain. Much of New Hampshire and western Maine were under a flood watch Monday, with the possibility of some creeks and rivers flooding.
Buffalo-based weather service meteorologist Sean Smith said the slow-moving storm could linger before moving out sometime Tuesday. Sustained winds of 20-30 mph were predicted throughout the Northeast, and gusts of up to 50 mph were expected off Cape Cod.
The snow postponed minor league baseball in Batavia, about 30 miles east of Buffalo, where the Empire State Yankees and Norfolk Tides were supposed to play.
"The field is completely covered in snow, and there's no way to get it all off," Travis Sick said from Dwyer Stadium, where the snow continued to come down.
Finger Lakes Racetrack called off its thoroughbred racing card as heavy wet snow blanketed the central New York track, and the gray skies and the wintry forecast forced the University at Buffalo's dedication of a new solar panel installation indoors.
The weather was suspected in the rollover of a truck in the Chautauqua County town of Westfield. It was unknown if there were any injuries.
In Cortland and Yates counties in central New York, authorities said roads were snow-covered and slippery, and they urged drivers not to head out unless absolutely necessary. Dozens of schools in central and western New York were delayed or closed. The snow and slippery roads stretched into the Adirondacks, which got about 2 inches of slushy accumulation.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Wood said six inches of snow fell by daybreak Monday in the higher terrain of Tug Hill, just southeast of Watertown. The snow was expected to change to rain later Monday.
Associated Press writers Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh, Bob Lentz in Philadelphia and Ed Donahue in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
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