- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A winter storm that shut down much of the South churned up the coast Wednesday, dumping wet, heavy snow across the Northeast and saving its most brutal punch for New England, where hundreds of cars spun out and schools and businesses shut down.

Armies of plows and salt spreaders hit streets across the region to stem chaos during Wednesday morning’s commute. In Connecticut, where nearly 2 feet of snow has fallen, state police responded to about 500 spinouts, fender-benders and stranded vehicles. Four minor injuries were reported.

“Troopers are going from one stranded vehicle to another,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a department spokesman.

In New York, where officials took heavy criticism for the slow response to a Dec. 26 blizzard, the morning commute got off to a promising start as plows cleared streets that had been blocked for days by the last storm. Nearly 9 inches fell in Central Park, well short of 20 inches that last month’s storm dumped on the city.

New England, though, appeared to be caught off guard by the ferocity of the latest storm. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, leading the state through what threatened to be his first disaster, ordered a double shift of state troopers onto highways.

Heavy snow and gusting winds closed hundreds of schools and businesses from Maine and New Hampshire southward.

“You can’t see across the street. The wind and snow is blowing about 40 miles an hour sideways,” said Artie Perrin, general manager at Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere, Mass., north of Boston.

In Connecticut, Ridgefield had 22 inches of snow by 8 a.m., and Danbury had 18 inches. In Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, a snow emergency was declared, and only city and education board employees essential to storm operations were expected at work.

In Maine, an inch of snow an hour meant snow plows had a hard time keeping up. About 70,000 households in Massachusetts lacked power, according to the state emergency management agency.

Airline operations were disrupted across the region. Every flight into and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport was delayed. New York’s LaGuardia Airport canceled 675 flights; John F. Kennedy International Airport, 300; and Newark Liberty International Airport, 440. Philadelphia International Airport reported about 20 dozen canceled outbound flights and 100 canceled arrivals, but spokeswoman Victoria Lupica expected things to be back in full swing by noon.

Officials cautioned motorists to stay off the road from the Carolinas to Maine. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick noted reports of spinouts and disoriented motorists heading the wrong way on highways.

Richard Delgaudio of Rocky Hill, Conn., took time out from his drive into work at Connecticut Light & Power to help push a stranded motorist who got stuck in a foot of snow in a Hartford intersection.

“It’s tough to even see out there,” he said. “The normal exit that I would normally take, I said …, ‘I don’t even know if this is the exit.’”

Plows were out in force in New Jersey and New York, which was getting hit by snow for the third time in less than three weeks, after the crippling Dec. 26 blizzard and a 2-inch dusting last week.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said crews would work even harder after criticism of how the city handled the blizzard, when hundreds of streets went unplowed, subway riders were stranded, and medical calls unanswered because ambulances were unable to navigate snowy streets.

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