NEW YORK (AP) – Spring kicked off with a wallop of wintry weather along the East Coast as the fourth nor’easter in three weeks rolled in with the potential for a foot or more of snow Wednesday.
The first full day of the season included scenes of snow falling on blooming daffodils in suburban Philadelphia, New Yorkers twisting to fix blown-out umbrellas, tractor-trailers stuck on snowy highways and kids making their first snowman of spring.
“I want warm! I’m done with the cold,” said Yana Damoiseau, a pedestrian in New York City.
Airlines canceled thousands of flights, and school districts throughout the Northeast called off classes ahead of the storm, which was expected to intensify in the afternoon and make its way into New England, with heavy, wet snow likely to knock out power across a wide area.
New York City braced for what could be its biggest March snowstorm ever, with 12 to 18 inches forecast. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, where most areas were expected to see at least 8 inches. Forecasters said Boston could get 6 inches, and the Philadelphia area could see a foot.
The storm was just the latest to come off the assembly line in the Northeast since March 2. Many people’s tolerance for wintry weather was already worn thin, after repeated power outages and lots of white-knuckle driving.
“I didn’t think I’d still need to keep storm stuff in my car in late March, but what are you going to do?” Wilson Collins, of Toms River, New Jersey, said as he checked his car trunk to make sure he had a shovel, a blanket and other emergency items. “I just hope this is finally it.”
On the other side of the country, a storm brought heavy rain to California, and tens of thousands of people in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were ordered to flee their homes because of the danger of mudslides on slopes burned by recent wildfires.
By late morning in the East, hundreds of auto accidents were reported. On New York’s Long Island, Newsday reported that a woman was killed and five people were injured when a van overturned on a parkway.
More than 1,000 flights in the New York City area alone were canceled, with a ripple effect on air travel around the country. On the ground, Amtrak scaled back service on the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, and some states banned trucks from major highways.
The storm also unloaded snow on Virginia and West Virginia as it pushed into the Northeast. Virginia reported more 240 traffic accidents since midnight. In West Virginia, around 17,000 customers were without power.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 5,500 utility workers and 300 National Guard members were standing by. The state also sent generators, light towers, plows and salt to areas that have already endured multi-day, storm-related power outages this month.
Cuomo said he was told the utilities were better prepared this time.
“We have had assurances,” he said. “Frankly, I’m not satisfied with the assurances.”
Not everyone was sick of the snow.
In Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, about 90 miles outside Philadelphia, 10-year-old siblings Talia and Miles Broadhurst made their own fun on yet another day off from school, climbing onto the family SUV and sliding down the snow-slicked windshield and hood before plopping onto the snow.
“If the snow keeps me away from school, I’m fine with it,” Miles said.
Hill contributed from Albany, New York. Also contributing were Michael Rubinkam in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, Kiley Armstrong and Larry Neumeister in New York City, Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey.