Early Snow Hits East Coast

An unusually early snowfall has left much of the East Coast with major power outages. Host Audie Cornish talks with reporter Alex Ashlock of member station WBUR in Boston about

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. Snow made an unusually early appearance along parts of the East Coast yesterday. The combination of wet snow and heavy winds knocked out power lines. More than two million people, from Virginia to New England are without power. Governors declared states of emergency in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York. Alex Ashlock from member station WBUR in Boston is with us. And, Alex, you've been out and about reporting today. Tell us about how things are faring there.

ALEX ASHLOCK, BYLINE: Well, Audie, the big problem in Massachusetts and across the Northeast are power lines that have come down because tree limbs and branches have fallen on them because of the snow was so wet and heavy, and also because of high winds. You mentioned 2.3 million customers, from Maryland to New England, losing power. Some of the numbers inside the state; more than 600,000 in Massachusetts here where I am; 700,000 lost power in Connecticut; 200,000 losing power in New Hampshire.

CORNISH: As you've noted, people up and down the East Coast without power, but do you have any sense of how long it will be before power is restored in these areas?

ASHLOCK: Well, utility company officials are a little bit hesitant to say exactly how long it will take, but some officials are saying it could take several days. And here in Massachusetts, you might remember Hurricane Irene - or Tropical Storm Irene a couple of months ago - knocked out power to more than 700,000 people here in Massachusetts. It took more than a week for power to be restored for some of those folks. And it's looking like this could be a similar case.

CORNISH: I know it feels early, since we're talking about a snowstorm in October. But, I mean, has snow come this early before?

ASHLOCK: Well, I think here in New England people like to think they're pretty tough when it comes to snow, but this is unusual. Some pretty extraordinary amounts of snow for this time of year. In Connecticut, Winsted, 18-inches. In Massachusetts, in Berkshire County - that's in the western part of the state - Windsor, 26-inches; Beckett, 21-inches. People are scrambling to their record books to try to figure out how early this snow is. Really, the first measurable snow you usually see in New England comes in December. October snowfall is rare in places like New York City. Saturday marked only the fourth October day with any measureable snowfall in Central Park since recordkeeping began 135 years ago. Washington, you know, received just a trace of snow, tying a record for that date in 1925. So, snow before Halloween is unusual.

CORNISH: At this point, how quickly is the clean-up process going?

ASHLOCK: Well, the clean-up process is underway, but one of the problems power company officials are telling us about this morning is many trees and limbs and branches are still covered with this wet, heavy snow. So power lines are continuing to come down, even though this storm has moved off. Here in Massachusetts, the governor, Deval Patrick, declared a state of emergency. He has several hundred National Guardsmen and women mobilized to come out and help with the clean-up efforts. So even though the snow is not falling anymore, and we're going to have sunshine here in Massachusetts today, power lines could still be coming down. And in fact, power lines and trees are down on some roads and secondary roads and highways across the state, and some of those roads are closed.

CORNISH: And Alex, I don't want to let you go without asking quickly about travel plans. How has this affected East Coast travel?

ASHLOCK: Well, the airports along the East Coast are open, but airline officials always say check with your airline, because if you look at the Logan Airport website here in Boston, you can see some flights are either cancelled or delayed. And that's probably because of the ripple of all the flights that were delayed or cancelled yesterday. Generally, the highways, at least here where I am in Massachusetts, are in pretty good shape, except for those cases where there might some limbs or trees down in the roadways.

CORNISH: Alex Ashlock, reporter with member station WBUR in Boston. Alex, thanks for talking with us.

ASHLOCK: You're welcome, Audie

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