NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – A late-winter snowstorm blew out of the Midwest and into the Northeast on Tuesday, making driving treacherous and closing schools just four days before the start of spring.

Up to 10 inches of snow was forecast overnight in parts of Ohio, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and New Jersey was expecting 9 inches. A foot of snow was possible in upstate New York and Massachusetts.

In Maine, snow was reportedly falling early Tuesday evening in the Portland area, but the storm was slow to arrive in Lewiston. It was snowing by 10 p.m., but snow had not started to accumulate.

Wet roads were blamed for numerous highway crashes, including separate accidents that killed two people in Pennsylvania. Ohio police were investigating whether snow contributed to a crash that killed two other people when their car swerved into the path of a truck near Akron.

As the storm was gathering strength, a record 18 inches fell Monday around Sioux City, Iowa. Illinois, Indiana and Michigan also picked up a few inches.

“I’m tired of this,” Peg Woods said in Newton, N.J. “I just put my snow shovel away the other day.”

Dayton, Ohio, had about 7 inches by late afternoon. The weather forced the closure of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to all but essential personnel. About 22,000 people work at the base.

Hundreds of Ohio schools canceled classes, and several districts closed early in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut as roads became wet and slippery.

“When we had those few warm days, I was really looking forward to spring being here,” said Peter DeFelice, owner of the Flower Box florist shop in Sparta, N.J. “But if it’s going to snow, then let it snow big. A lot of people are kind of excited about it here, looking forward to a snow day. At least my kids are.”

Robert Bogan, who was filling his tank at a gas station outside Albany, also was pleased by the fast-falling snow.

“This is why I live in the Northeast,” said Bogan, 62.

Newark had nearly 51/2 inches of snow before it turned to rain Tuesday night. Flights at the city’s airport were delayed by up to 90 minutes, and more than 100 flights were canceled.

The snow also delayed the Seton Hall basketball team’s trip to the NCAA tournament after Tuesday’s flight was canceled. The team plans to leave Wednesday and make it in time for its game Thursday.

Ohio’s Bowling Green State University baseball team – just back from nine days in Florida – canceled Tuesday’s home opener because of sideways-blowing snow and wind gusting to 35 mph.

The snow was expected to reach Maine during the night, and ski areas welcomed it more for the psychological effect than for any additional cover on their slopes.

“Once you get into this month with milder stretches and people are out starting to focus on other activities – jogging, shopping, thinking about golfing or hiking – it’s hard to keep skiing on their minds,” said Susan DuPlessis, spokeswoman for the Sunday River ski resort near Bethel, Maine.

AP-ES-03-16-04 2132EST



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