MONTPELIER, Vt. – A surprisingly fierce winter storm blanketed northern New England and upstate New York with up to 30 inches of snow Monday, while western Connecticut was deluged with so much rain that parts of homes and cars floated down a swollen river.
As of 10 a.m., 21.4 inches of snow had fallen at Burlington International Airport and the snow was expected to continue falling through the early afternoon.
The storm helped push the winter of 2010-11 up the record list. Even before the snow stopped, it became the fifth-snowiest winter on record in Burlington, at 119.5 inches, and the storm appeared potent enough to challenge the famous Valentine’s Day blitz in 2007 that dumped 25.7 inches on Burlington, Taber said.
In northern Vermont, drifting and blowing snow caused whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility. A 10-to-12-mile section of Interstate 89 was closed for several hours Monday morning in the Richmond-Williston area.
As of midday Sunday, the forecast for the area called for 10 to 20 inches, but the report worsened as the day progressed.
“We had almost a tropical air mass across southern New England that was trying to push north at the same time a polar air mass was trying to push south,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Taber. “It was that battleground that created this intense snowfall.”
In western Connecticut, heavy rains and melting snow combined to cause major flooding and mudslides. Officials in Shelton reported that parts of two homes and two cars were swept into the Housatonic River. The homes and cars appeared to be unoccupied, officials said.
The river was reported to be nearly 21 feet at the Stevenson Dam, about 10 feet above the flood stage. Further upstream, an ice jam on the river broke in Kent and sent ice chunks and water onto Route 7, which closed in both directions.
Upstate New York was blitzed by more than 2 feet of snow, freezing rain and 30 mph winds. Scores of schools and state offices were closed throughout the region, and more than 50,000 utility customers lost power.
In New Hampshire, Gov. John Lynch and emergency officials prepared to act if swollen rivers flooded. Several were nearing flood stage as heavy rains combined with melting snow. Officials were also concerned that higher temperatures would cause ice dams to form.
In northern Maine, where residents are accustomed to some of the nation’s heaviest snowfall, rain fell for 18 hours and then turned to sleet and heavy snow. That added to the misery for mushers who departed Saturday morning from Fort Kent on a grueling 250-mile dog sled race.
About half the participants in the Can-Am Crown dropped out, but those who persevered began crossing the finish line Monday, said race marshal George Theriault.