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Published: Monday, 2/17/2003

Snowstorm that spared NW Ohio takes out its fury over wide area

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

WASHINGTON - A powerful snowstorm battered the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic states yesterday, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow that shut down airports, snarled highways, and forced cancellation of church services and major sporting events.

Where snow wasn't piling up, floods and mudslides wreaked havoc; even the Daytona 500 was affected, cut short by heavy rain in Florida.

At least nine deaths had been blamed on the weather since snow burst across the Plains Friday and Saturday. Governors in Kentucky, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware declared states of emergency, closing roads and in some cases mobilizing the National Guard.

The slow-moving storm spanned the Eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, shutting down airports and closing malls and museums.

“This is looking like the largest storm this year, and it may be one of the top five in our recorded history,” said Lora Rakowski of Maryland's Highway Administration.

In Tennessee, where more than 7 inches of rain had fallen, a mudslide early yesterday destroyed an apartment building outside Knoxville, chasing out several dozen tenants.

Snow fell from Missouri to New Jersey. Flakes piled up at a rate of up to 4 inches an hour in parts of Maryland. Gov. Robert Ehrlich banned most civilian traffic from highways.

Forecasts ranged from a foot of snow by late today in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to 20 inches in New Jersey and 2 feet in Maryland and northern Virginia.

Dulles International Airport had just one runway open during the afternoon. About three-quarters of flights at Philadelphia International Airport were canceled, spokesman Mark Pesce said. Amtrak suspended service between Washington and Richmond, Va., said spokesman Dan Stessel.

Monuments and museums in Washington were closed.

Twenty inches of snow was predicted in parts of New Jersey, where temperatures were in the teens or lower. Flights were canceled or delayed at Atlantic City International Airport.

A foot to 15 inches of snow was possible in New York City, which readied 1,300 plows and 148,000 tons of salt, said Kathy Dawkins, spokesman for the city Department of Sanitation.

To the west, icy roads led to cancellation of Sunday church services in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Classes were canceled at Ohio State University's main Columbus campus for the first time in 20 years, and Ohio University announced its main campus in Athens would be closed today.

Most of northwest Ohio was spared the weekend snowstorm that concentrated on central and southern portions of the state.

Kenton and Bucyrus collected only about an inch of snow by late yesterday. But Bellefontaine, only 30 miles south of Kenton, got seven inches.

Weather-related deaths included two in Illinois, one in Nebraska, one in West Virginia, four in Missouri, and one in Iowa killed when an Amtrak train hit a car stuck on tracks in snow west of Danville.



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