- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The winter storm that has had the Northeast on edge for more than a day has begun tapering off in southern parts of the region.

Officials say that snow plows are making progress on New Jersey highways at midday Friday and that the Philadelphia airport now has both main runways and a secondary runway open.

The wind is easing and authorities have lifted a ban on empty tractor-trailers on four Philadelphia-area bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

However, the storm and its effects are still battering New England. The area is dealing with rain, snow, high winds and coastal flooding.

Schools have been canceled as far west as Cleveland and roads closed as far south as West Virginia as the slow-moving storm spent a second day parked over the region.

The storm brought a wide array of calamity over a broad area after getting a slow start Thursday, when snow began falling in the Philadelphia region around dawn but didn’t start sticking to the ground until dusk.

It turned out that snow — 31 inches in Monroe, N.Y. — was only part of the story. In the parts of coastal New England where winds caused havoc, the precipitation mostly came as rain.

Power failures were so severe and widespread in New Hampshire — 330,000 customers in the dark in a state of 1.3 million people — that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator.

In Kennebunkport, Maine, a loud boom from a transformer early Friday awoke Michael Wiewel and cut power to his home. A short time later, a 50-foot poplar crashed on his roof above the bed where he and his wife slept.

“It sounded like a bomb going off,” he said.

Throughout the area, crews were cutting fallen trees that littered yards and pounded roofs. Power lines dangled free.

The highest wind reported was 91 mph in Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts hit 60 mph or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York’s Long Island and Massachusetts.

In the coastal town of Hampton, the unoccupied Surf Hotel caught fire, and the howling winds quickly spread the blaze to the rest of the block. Five wood-frame buildings, including an arcade and a restaurant, burned. The cause was unknown.

To the north in Maine, waves crashing ashore at high tide Friday morning turned beachfront streets into rivers in Saco, where storms have claimed several homes over the years.

“Felt like the walls were coming in on the house, and the windows were rattling, and the trees were cracking. It was pretty impressive,” said Mark Breton, who rode out the storm in his house a few blocks from the beach.

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