The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 25, 2013

Spring snow closes US schools, cancels flights

HAMBURG — Five days into spring, warm weather and budding flowers were just a rumor Monday as the East Coast endured another blast of winter.

A wide-ranging storm that buried parts of the Midwest weakened as it moved east but still managed to carpet lawns and fields in a fresh layer of white. Many schools opened late or closed early, and hundreds of flights were canceled.

The cold temperatures and miserable mixture of snow and rain had people longing for more agreeable weather.

"I'm ready for flip flops," said Jessica Cunitz, 24 of Westchester County, N.Y., who stopped at a gas station along Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania to fill her overheating car with antifreeze. "It's supposed to be spring."

In Maryland, Michael Pugh donned a wool coat, knit cap, waterproof pants and heavy boots to trudge more than a mile through four inches of wet snow to his bank in downtown Hagerstown, about 70 miles west of Baltimore. He pronounced the weather "dreadful."

By this time of year, "I was hoping it'd be sunny and the weather breaking," said Pugh, a warehouse worker who turned 38 Monday. "Every day I think I can pack up the winter coat, and break out the spring clothes, and I can't."

Earlier, the storm walloped the Midwest, dumping a record 17 inches in Springfield, Ill., and a foot or more elsewhere in the state. Travel remained treacherous Monday afternoon, with Interstate 55 and 57 still covered in snow and ice, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Numerous vehicles were reported to be off roads, according to Illinois state police.

In downtown Springfield, coffee-shop manager Mike Zengilani said food-delivery trucks were hours late. But he didn't think about closing.

"Everyone else closes, so it's good for us to be open," Zengilani said. "It's Monday, it's definitely slower, but we all made the effort to come in."

The system was little more than a nuisance by the time it reached the East Coast. Air travel saw the biggest impact, with nearly 600 flights canceled as of Monday afternoon, according to the FlightAware tracking service. Hardest-hit airports included those in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Roadways, meanwhile, were mostly wet.

In Hamburg, Pa. — which has seen three here-and-gone snowfalls in little more than a week — carpet installer Seth Hanna drank coffee and surveyed the slush from a covered front porch.

"We got these warm days a few weeks ago, and everybody got their hopes up. March is supposed to be out like a lamb but it's not doing it," said Hanna, 30. "I love the snow, but I'm ready for some warm spring weather."

Robert Fink, 25, of Magnolia, N.J. said the worst part about yet another snow storm was having to shovel. Fink — shovel in hand outside a truck stop in Bordentown — said he longed for Florida, where he used to live.

"I'm a wimp when it comes to the cold," he said.

At the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, people waiting in line for tickets to this week's arguments on gay marriage held umbrellas or put tarps over their belongings as the snow fell. Darienn Powers wore a trash bag from the waist down to keep dry, but said the snow still made everything "a little wet and uncomfortable."

The spring snow was not expected to affect Washington's famous cherry blossoms. National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said the flowering trees are still expected to reach peak bloom between April 3 and April 6.

Mitchell Gaines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., said colder-than-normal temperatures the past few weeks had created conditions ripe for snow.

"It's fairly late in March to see a system like this," he said.

___

Associated Press writers David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., Rema Rahman in Bordentown, N.J., Regina Garcia Cano in Springfield, Ill., and Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this story.

 

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