- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NEWBURY, N.H. (AP) - Snow fell by as much as 2 inches per hour in northern New England on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of flights, giving many students a break from school and drawing out skiers and other winter enthusiasts.

In Newport, the snow helped pick up the pace of ticket sales for an outdoor “Yankee Luau” on the town common as part of Newport’s 98th Winter Carnival.

“The South gets an inch and shuts down and we get a foot and we’re gonna throw a party,” Newport Recreation Director PJ Lovely said. “We’re hardy.”

The snow started before sunrise and quickly picked up in strength for the morning commute. By midday, some communities reported 5 to 9 inches, and many state offices in Maine closed early. Transportation departments in New Hampshire and Maine lowered highway speeds to 45 mph, and Vermont state police urged drivers to avoid using U-Turns on the interstate.

Traffic overall was lighter than usual and roads were largely empty during the evening commute, but police still urged drivers to take precautions and go slow. “The roads are worse than you think,” New Hampshire State Police Lt. Nicole Armaganian told WMUR-TV.

Some cars slid off the roads and visibility was reduced, but no major accidents were reported.

At the Mount Sunapee Resort ski area, the lot was filling up with skiers undeterred by a trek through the snow.

“A day like today to get out and play in the snow, it’s fabulous!” said Kittie Wilson, who drove with her husband, John, from New London. They expected plenty of company on the slopes.

“It’s going to be really crowded, with kids out of school and the Wednesday special,” she said, referring to a regular promotion permitting two to ski for the price of one.

Also psyched to hit the slopes was Ben LaPrade, a junior at Kearsarge Regional High School, which canceled classes.

LaPrade is looking forward to “shredding the powder,” which is an uncommon and highly coveted condition in the frequently icy east. He said the last time he skied in conditions resembling powder was in December.

“We just haven’t had that much snow,” said LaPrade, of New London.

The snow was expected to taper off in the afternoon. When it was over, the southern half of New Hampshire was expected to get 7 to 14 inches. The southern half of Maine anticipated see 8 inches to a foot while Vermont was looking at anywhere from 5 to 10 inches.

The snow was welcomed in Vermont, which had been suffering a relative drought this winter.

“We didn’t have enough snow, but it’s coming,” Meredith Sumner of Morse Farm Ski Touring Center in Montpelier said. “We’re all breathing a sigh of relief and joy.”

Dixie Harris, co-owner of a cross-country ski area at Harris Farm in Dayton, Maine, where at least a foot of snow is expected, also is happy with the timing of the storm. She said the mid-week storm gives people plenty of time to make weekend plans. With temperatures relatively warm, the farm could see up to 700 skiers this weekend, she said.

“It sounds like the perfect storm,” she said.

Back in Newport, Lovely said the snow bodes well for skijoring events at the carnival this weekend - a popular attraction that had to be canceled the past two years due to a lack of snow. The sport features horseback riders towing a person on skis over jumps and through other obstacles.

“This is typical New England,” Lovely said. “We expect storms and funky temperatures and funky weather.”


Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin in Augusta Maine, and Beth Garbitelli in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.

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