Sleet, Snow And Freezing Rain Pelt Northeast Days Before Spring's Arrival

Friday, March 16th 2007, 5:53 pm
By: News On 6

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Sleet, snow and freezing rain pelted the East Coast on Friday, dashing hopes that spring had arrived because temperatures had soared into the 60s and 70s two days earlier.

Up to six inches of snow had fallen in parts of Maryland and upstate New York was expecting 12 to 18 inches north and west of Albany. As many as 20 inches could fall in higher elevations of northeastern Pennsylvania, forecasters said.

The storm was blamed for at least three deaths in traffic accidents in Pennsylvania and five in New Jersey, authorities said.

In Delaware, state police said sleet and ice were responsible for more than 100 accidents, and a vehicle in President George W. Bush's motorcade traveling from Washington to Camp David collided on Friday with another car along a slushy Interstate in Urbana, Md. No one was injured.

Aiming to avoid criticism about persistent delays and problems that followed a storm last month, airline JetBlue canceled about three-fourths of all scheduled flights across the country, most in the New York area.

American, United, Delta and Continental also canceled flights, and there were delays reported in at airports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Albany, N.Y., Baltimore-Washington, Newark, N.J. and Boston.

At Newark, Karen Opdyke, 48, was trying to get to Miami for a cruise with her husband, three young children and mother after their 9 a.m. flight was canceled.

``We got on the plane, we got off the plane. We got on the plane and off the plane,'' Opdyke said as she balanced a crying child next to a pile of luggage. She wasn't having any luck rescheduling. ``There's nothing available all week.''

The storm also forced school cancellations throughout the Northeast and prompted some government agencies to send workers home early.

In Hartford, Conn. and York, Pa., officials postponed their annual St. Patrick's Day parades. Two Maryland women's basketball teams headed to Hartford for the NCAA women's basketball tournament had travel problems, tournament officials said.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County team spokesman Mike Lurie said the team was ``safe and warm'' at a rest stop while they waited for a replacement bus after their first broke down in the middle of the storm on the New Jersey Turnpike, and the team was hopeful to make Hartford by late Friday night. The University of Maryland Terrapins were hoping to arrive Saturday morning after their chartered flight Friday was delayed.

Officials dropped the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike to 35 mph for its entire length, and state police said they had responded to about 1,300 reports of accidents or spinoffs by early evening.

New Jersey officials said three of the roadway deaths there occurred when a passenger van carrying several people collided with a second vehicle on a slick highway in Gloucester County. State police said several other people _ possibly as many as eight _ were injured.

Winter officially ends at the vernal equinox Tuesday evening, but climatologists said it was not unusual for storms to arrive well into March.

``Usually you have the biggest storms in March,'' said meteorologist Kevin Lipton in Albany, N.Y.

On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that this winter was the warmest worldwide since record keeping began in 1880.