Lights Go Out, Roads Dicey as Wintry Storm Batters Northeast

WARREN, Mass. — The first big wintry storm of the season began dropping what forecasters say could be more than a foot of wet, heavy snow Saturday on parts of the Northeast, making travel treacherous and cutting off power to tens of thousands.

Morning rain gave over to snow in the afternoon in New England. Accidents littered the Massachusetts Turnpike, where speed limits were reduced to 40 mph (64 kph).

As of late Saturday night, about 200,000 customers were without power in Maine, according to the utility tracking Another 53,000 customers didn’t have power in New Hampshire and about 22,000 were without power in Massachusetts.

Forecasters warned the windy nor’easter could result in near-blizzard conditions and could dump a foot (30 centimeters) of snow on suburban Boston. In Canada, southern Quebec and New Brunswick also expected a wallop.

Authorities in Connecticut urged drivers to be careful.

“Troopers are responding to accidents all over the state,” state police tweeted. “We ask motorists, if they can stay home please do. And if you have to go out please drive slow and ditch all distractions.”

Unitil Corp., an electric and gas utility in New England, reported that crews stood ready to respond to power outages.

“The chief hazards with the current forecast include hazardous driving conditions in the early hours, the volume of wet snow forecasted to fall and possible gusty winds in coastal areas,” said spokesperson Alec O’Meara.

In some areas, snowfall of 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) per hour was possible, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Clair in Gray, Maine.

“This is the first big one,” Clair said of the beginning of the winter season. “There has been some snow up in the mountains, but this is the first one across where most people live.”

Localized totals of more than 18 inches (46 cm) are possible in higher terrain, Clair said. But the more populated areas just inland are expected to get about a foot.

Areas south of New England, including the New York region, expected heavy rain and strong winds

In Maine, about 188,000 electric customers were without power at midday Sunday after the first major winter storm of the season brought heavy, wet snow and high winds to the region.

Central Maine Power, which accounts for more than 161,000 of the outages in Maine, said officials were trying to determine how long it will take to restore power to all its customers. But based on historical comparisons to similar storms it could be three to five days before electricity service is fully restored.

“This storm caused significant tree and limb damage as a result of heavy, wet snow and strong winds,” said CMP Executive Chairman David Flanagan. “Crews worked hard overnight to ensure conditions were made safe, and those efforts will continue throughout the day today. Facing more wind today, our crews will work as quickly as possible to restore power to our customers.”

In addition to the outages in Maine, nearly 60,000 customers are without power in New Hampshire. About 7,500 customers are in the dark in Massachusetts. There are a handful of outages in Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The storm that hit the region Saturday causing numerous traffic accidents and dumped heavy wet snow onto the region is moving in the Canadian Maritime provinces.

About the photo: A snow clearing machine cleans a road during heavy snow, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Marlborough, Mass. The northeastern United States is seeing the first big snowstorm of the season. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)