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Early winter pummels much of US, strands cars

November 19, 2014

BUFFALO, New York (AP) — A huge lake-effect snow storm dumped four feet (1.2 meters) of snow around the city of Buffalo in upstate New York Tuesday, forcing state police on snowmobiles to deliver blankets to stranded motorists on the main highway across New York state on a wintry day when temperatures fell to freezing or below in all 50 states.

At least four people died during the storm. One person was killed in an automobile accident and three others had heart attacks, including two believed to be shoveling snow at the time, Erie County officials said.

In a region accustomed to highway-choking snowstorms, this one is being called one of the worst in memory. Snow blown by strong winds forced the closing of a 132-mile (212-kilometer) stretch of the New York State Thruway.

Dan Weiller of the Thruway Authority said about 150 vehicles were stuck on a four-mile (6.4-kilometer) section of the interstate highway. Troopers used snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles to deliver supplies, state police Capt. Ed Kennedy said.

Poloncarz was expecting the remaining motorists to be evacuated by nightfall because of plunging temperatures.

Meteorologists say temperatures in all 50 states fell to freezing or below on Tuesday. They say the low temperatures were more reminiscent of January than November.

In New Hampshire and elsewhere, icy roads led to accidents. Lake-effect storms in Michigan produced gale-force winds and as much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow, and canceled several flights.

The Southeast wasn’t spared. Schools closed in the North Carolina mountains amid blustery winds and ice-coated roads.

In Atlanta, tourists Morten and Annette Larsen from Copenhagen were caught off-guard by the sub-freezing weather as they took photos of a monument to the 1996 summer Olympics at Centennial Olympic Park.

“It’s as cold here as it is in Denmark right now. We didn’t expect that,” Larsen said, waving a hand over his denim jacket, buttoned tightly over a hooded sweatshirt.

In Buffalo, Brian Krzeminski watched the snow pile up outside the south Buffalo convenience store where he worked overnight and served free coffee to the motorists and pedestrians who came in off the city streets to get out of the blinding snow.

“There are people that came out to get a few things. We had some people who came in just to get a 30-pack of beer, which is kind of odd,” he said. “I’m constantly seeing cars get stuck.”

The National Weather Service warned that the snow, generated by cold air blowing over the warmer Great Lakes, would continue through Wednesday and could eventually total 6 feet in places. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed 150 members of the National Guard state militia to help clear snow-clogged roads and remove abandoned vehicles.

“We have tried to get out of our house and we are lucky to be able to shovel so we can open the door. Basically, that’s it, open the door,” said Linda Oakley of Buffalo. “We’re just thinking that in case of an emergency we can at least get out the door. We can’t go any further.”

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Associated Press Writers Kate Brumback, Deepti Hajela, Chris Carola and Michael Hill contributed to this report.

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