Nor’easters bring earliest snow

Relief organizations open shelters for residents who lost power.

BY ZACHARY HOFFMAN | STATE COLLEGE | October 17, 2009



"It’s a mess"

—Janet Heasley, State College Presbyterian Church


A nor’easter roared up the Atlantic coast Friday producing the earliest snowfall in history, closing schools in New York and north central Pennsylvania, toppling trees, causing traffic accidents and knocking out power to more than 20,000 homes and businesses.

More snow and unseasonably cold rain is predicted for Saturday.

Local churches, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross opened shelters as warming centers for residents who were without power as the unseasonably cold temperatures hovered near freezing.

“In the winter this wouldn’t have been a problem,” said Meteorologist Paul Head of the National Weather Service (NWS) in State College, PA. “With the leaves still on the trees and then the heavy wet snow there’s a lot more surface area for snow to collect and causes a lot of damage.”

“It’s really weird to look up and see leaves on the trees and snow on them,” Head said.

In addition to power outages, snow-laden limbs have blocked some secondary roads in central Pennsylvania that will need debris removal teams.

“We’re anticipating for this to run in though the weekend,” said Shawn Kauffman, the Centre Region Emergency Management Coordinator. “We are hoping for a better forecast but right now they are calling for this to last several days.”

The snow started to fall Thursday from remnants of a storm system that delivered excessively high winds to and dumped nearly a foot of snow on northern California. Now another system is moving to replace that one and continues to create a winter wonderland in mid-October.

Head said, “It’s a back-to-back type of nor’easter storm; we get those rarely in the winter, for October it’s unprecedented.”

“It’s a mess,” said Janet Heasley of State College Presbyterian Church.

“Penn State’s homecoming is this weekend . . . so I don’t know how that’s going to work,” she said.

In light of the forecast, Pennsylvania State University banned tailgating parties and tents that are usually part of the homecoming game festivities.

Heasley has lived in Centre County, PA, since the mid ‘80s and has never experienced such a snowfall this early in October. There was a big storm once in late October that felled a lot of tree limbs, but nothing this early.

“This is a record breaker,” Heasley said. “A lot of trees are down – limbs are down, we’re okay here but there are a lot of neighborhoods that don’t have power.”

“It’s a remarkable cold air event,” said Head. “It’s just an ideal situation for snow, something snow lovers dream of around Christmas.”

While central Pennsylvania is experiencing an impressive snow event, areas to the east where the temperature is above 35 degrees will only see rain.

The NWS has issued a coastal flood advisory for the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay due to the rain and tidal movements. Only areas that normally flood in high rain should see any high water.


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