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Snow buries parts of U.S. Northeast, flights canceled

by FP Staff  Dec 28, 2012 00:00 IST

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BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - A powerful winter storm responsible for wind, snow, tornadoes and a flurry of traffic accidents battered the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, canceling hundreds of flights but also reviving what had been a snowless ski season.

The storm dumped a foot (30 cm) of snow on parts of the United States with the heaviest snow falling across northern New York and into northern New England, the National Weather Service reported.

The service issued coastal flood advisories from New York's Long Island to southern Maine and winter storm warnings for parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England.

Airlines canceled 548 flights on Thursday after 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com, a website that tracks flights.

The massive storm system dumped record snow in north Texas and Arkansas before it swept through the U.S. South on Christmas Day and then veered north.

The system triggered tornadoes and left almost 200,000 people in Arkansas and Alabama without power on Wednesday.

The weather service forecast 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) of snow for northern New England after the storm moved northeast out of the lower Great Lakes, where it left more than a foot (30 cm) of snow on parts of Michigan.

The storm front was accompanied by freezing rain and sleet, creating hazards on the highways and at airports.

Retailers, still in the busy holiday shopping season, expected sales would continue with consumers looking for winter items.

"People are out spending anyway. Weather can trigger what you purchase - not if you purchase, but what you purchase," said Evan Gold, senior vice president of client services at Planalytics, which tracks weather for businesses including retailers.

The snow also brought renewed hope for winter recreation across upstate New York.

Daniel Ivancic, of the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, said he bought a snowmobile last winter that sat largely idle with snow totals well below average.

"I waited and waited and, no snow. This winter it seemed like the same thing was going to happen until the storm hit," Ivancic said. "I'm just going to take advantage of every minute of it."

About 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) of snow fell on Buffalo overnight. Light snow and freezing drizzle persisted throughout the morning hours, with as much as another inch or two possible in some areas.

Before Wednesday evening's snow, Buffalo was 23 inches (58 cm) below average for this time of year, the weather service said.

"It's just a reminder, winter is here," said Tom Paone of the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Police patrolling the New York State Thruway from Buffalo to Albany reported as many as 50 accidents, mostly involving cars that slipped off snowy roads overnight.

Virginia State Police responded to nearly 700 car crashes on Wednesday, most of which were due to snow and ice around the Interstate 81 corridor, said spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

A 14-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Lynchburg, but police have not determined if the weather was to blame.

"The road conditions were slick at the time, but it's still being determined if it was weather-related," Geller said on Thursday.

A Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) jet skidded off the runway on Thursday at Long Island MacArthur Airport, about 50 miles (80 km) east of New York City, as it taxied for takeoff, Suffolk County police said.

None of the 134 people aboard Tampa-bound flight No. 4695 was injured, police said.

"It's been undetermined at this time if weather was a factor," a police spokeswoman said. (Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins, Dan Burns and Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Dale Hudson and Claudia Parsons)

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