Winter's last hurrah? Forecasters say big storm could be season's last significant snowfall



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PHILADELPHIA — A storm stretching from northern Texas to southern New England threatened to bring icy rains, sleet, and snow overnight Wednesday but also hopes it would be the last significant snowfall for the East Coast this winter.

Governors in Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Jersey declared states of emergency in advance of the storm, and Congress hurried to finish business amid a snow emergency declaration in Washington. Mississippi counties were advised to open shelters powered by generators to give residents an option beyond cold, dark homes in the event of power outages.

West Virginia, Kentucky and southeastern Ohio were expected to get hit the hardest overnight Wednesday and into Thursday with 8 to 10 inches, while Baltimore and Washington were looking at 6 to 8 inches of snow, said National Weather Service forecaster Bruce Terry.

Philadelphia, where a snow emergency was in effect Wednesday, could get 6 inches and New York could see more than 4.

Temperatures plummeted as the storm pushed east: The mercury fell from 71 degrees to 52 degrees in Monticello, Arkansas, and from 74 to 48 in Greenville, Mississippi — both within an hour. By Wednesday afternoon, readings were in the mid-20s across Arkansas.

Boston is a little more than 2 inches shy of its all-time snowfall record, and meteorologists predicted 1 to 2 inches would fall by storm's end Thursday evening.

Schools from Texas to West Virginia closed early Wednesday and Penn State University canceled classes due to weather for the first time in eight years. About 1,200 flights were canceled, including 600 in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth.

Residents of Kentucky and West Virginia contended with flooded roads and mudslides. And by Wednesday night, a sheet of ice coated the roads in Memphis, Tennessee, making driving especially hazardous. In Arkansas, high school basketball playoff games were postponed until Thursday.


CONGRESS FLEES FLURRIES

The weather forecast got Congress going and produced rare bipartisan agreements in the House and in the Senate to finish business early and get out of town. Up to 8 inches of snow was in the forecast for Thursday morning.

Senate leaders set the last vote of the week for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. But that wasn't good enough for Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

"Is there any way you could change that to 2:20 from 2:30?" Inhofe asked on the Senate floor. "There are four people who can't make planes, otherwise."

He was accommodated.


LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, said the storm "might be winter's last hurrah." Likewise, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the storm could be winter's "caboose."

After the storm and possibly some cold days into the weekend, the next couple of weeks should be considerably warmer than normal for a large chunk of the country, Halpert said. The Climate Prediction Center predicted, however, colder-than-normal temperatures for New England.


TWO MORE INCHES, PLEASE!

Some Bostonians were clamoring for a little more snow so they can break a record.

So far this winter, the city has received 105.5 inches of snow — more than 8 1/2 feet, the National Weather Service said. The record is 107.6 inches recorded during the 1995-96 season. Records date to 1872.

Having endured weeks of misery, residents like Erin O'Brien insist they deserve bragging rights. Otherwise what was the point of repeatedly digging out?

"I want the record. We earned the record," said O'Brien, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

Others don't care about the record. Amy Ouellette, a marketing associate in Salem, north of Boston, just wants spring and sun to come and melt it all away.


ICE ROAD TRUCKERS

No injuries were reported in a four tractor-trailer crash that closed an icy road in rural western New York. The Daily News of Batavia reported the trucks either collided or went off the road in drizzle and snow around 5 a.m. Wednesday on Route 63 in Bethany, 32 miles southwest of Rochester.


ROOF COLLAPSE KILLS COWS

Officials blamed heavy, wet snow for a partial barn roof collapse that killed at least five cows Wednesday morning in central New York. The collapse at the Whey Street Dairy in Cuyler, 25 miles southeast of Syracuse, was one of hundreds of roof collapses blamed on heavy snow in the Northeast this winter. Massachusetts officials say they've received reports of nearly 200 roof collapses since Feb. 9.

No one was injured Wednesday morning when a 100-foot by 100-foot section of the roof of Boston's vacant Bayside Expo Center collapsed. The building was previously slated for demolition.

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TRAVEL-WEARY BUCKEYES

Bad weather Tuesday night turned an Ohio State men's basketball team trip to Penn State from an easy one-hour plane ride into an 8½-hour ordeal. Icy runways in State College, Pennsylvania, forced the team's plane to land in Latrobe, about 110 miles away. The team took a bus the rest of the way to Penn State, traveling at times through dense fog and rain, for the Wednesday night game.


AP writers Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi, and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

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