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Storm Puts East in the Deep Freeze

February 8, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Snow pushed by icy winds put the East Coast into a deep freeze Friday, snarling rush-hour traffic and giving thousands of schoolchildren the day off, while snow mixed with rain glazed highways from New Mexico to Nebraska.

At least seven traffic deaths were blamed on the weather, and police reported dozens of fender-benders as cars slid on snowy roads.

The Eastern storm was the first significant snowfall of the winter for many areas. As it swept northward, it deposited 5 inches in Trenton, N.J., 3 inches in New York City, and 5 inches in New York’s northern suburbs.

The storm hit on the eighth anniversary of the Great Blizzard of ’78, which dumped 18 inches of snow on New York City and up to 50 inches on parts of New England over two days.

Snow spread from Maryland to southern New England, and westward to the eastern Great Lakes, with flurries continuing as far away as Illinois and Indiana. Temperatures were in the low to mid 20s, with winds from 15 to 25 mph and higher gusts blowing snow into drifts and cutting visibility.

Meanwhile, in northern Utah, canyon winds gusting up to 87 mph blew a small plane off a runway, overturned a semitruck trailer and toppled power poles, leaving several communities without electricity. No injuries were reported.

The eastern storm was actually a twin-barreled one, the National Weather Service said, with one center moving across Ohio and another moving off the Virginia coast. Winter storm warnings and travelers’ advisories cautioning about blizzard-like conditions were posted for the Northeast.

In Philadelphia, where the snow began falling around midnight, public and parochial schools were closed for the day, as were many suburban schools. The storm also forced the city’s airport to close for 1 1/2 hours to clear runways.

The storm moved into New York City about 5 a.m., just an hour before the start of the morning rush hour, said local officials.

″Mother Nature played a nasty trick on us and hit us at the worst possible time,″ said Al O’Leary, a spokesman for the city Sanitation Department, which plows local streets. Salt spreaders and plows hit the roads as the snow began but quickly became snarled in traffic jams.

″Conditions are horrendous out there,″ said Officer Vincent Jones, a Police Department spokesman who spent two hours, twice his usual time, driving to Manhattan from Queens. ″It was snow-covered and slippery, all the way.″

Many school districts in the city’s eastern and northern suburbs, southern Connecticut and New Jersey shut down for the day, giving students an unscheduled holiday, but city public schools remained open, with after-school activities canceled.

New Jersey state police Sgt. John Leach said: ″We’ve got pretty much all primary and secondary routes covered, with half an inch of sleet under it. Roads are really bad, period.″

Snow fell initially at an inch per hour, but soon tapered off, said Cliff Crowley of the weather service’s New York City office. Before the snow ends Friday night, the city could receive 6 inches, he said.

In Michigan, 5 inches of snow was on the ground in Ingham County, while the same amount fell in northern Illinois.

In the West, a storm that dumped 10 inches of snow on Colorado’s southern mountains Thursday headed south and east, spreading snow across the northern two-thirds of New Mexico, including up to a foot of snow in the Jemez Mountains. Snow also stretched into the Texas Panhandle and northward into western Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Twelve inches of snow fell at Borger, Texas, with 10 inches in Vega, the weather service said. Up to 6 inches of snow fell in southwestern Oklahoma, and melting snow made roads slick and slushy. Nineteen inches of snow fell in Sandia Ski Basin, N.M.

Snow and freezing drizzle glazed roads across much of Nebraska. ″The roads are slick, very slick,″ said Mike Kult, a dispatcher for the Nebraska State Patrol’s Omaha office.

Icy roads were blamed for three traffic deaths in Nebraska, one in Arizona, where freezing rain overnight slickened highways, one in Illinois and one in New Jersey. A boy riding a sled in Connecticut was killed when he was struck by a car.

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