Spring suffered a chilly setback Monday as an April snowstorm barreling along a 1,000-mile path from the Plains to the East Coast buried emerging tulips and daffodils, knocked out power and canceled baseball home openers from Chicago to New York.
More than a foot of wet, heavy snow fell on parts of Nebraska and southern Minnesota, and a foot was possible in the highlands of Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains and northern New Jersey. Schools closed from Nebraska to New York City, where 4 inches fell in Central Park before the snow turned to freezing rain and sleet during the evening.
"This is like Christmas without the cheer," Steve Moilanen said as snow flew in Michigan's Macomb County.
"I want it to be spring," complained 17-year-old Marissa D'Agostino at a shopping center in Carle Place, N.Y., where the snow blanketed tulip buds. "I want it to be warm again. This snow is insane."
Seven tourists from China were killed when their van went out of control on a slush-covered highway in central Pennsylvania and plunged down a bank, state police said. Two traffic deaths were blamed on the storm in Nebraska and two in Wisconsin. Around the Great Lakes, the snow was preceded by a weekend ice storm blamed for four deaths in Michigan and three in upstate New York.
Snow and freezing rain began falling as cold wind plowed into wet air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico. Some of that moist air also fueled thunderstorms in the South, where Mississippi officials said high wind destroyed two businesses and 28 homes.
Snow started falling Saturday in western Nebraska and moved steadily eastward.
By the time the snow started tapering off in Sioux Falls, S.D., flakes were falling in New York, more than 1,000 miles to the east. Sioux Falls collected 7 inches of snow, the most there for a storm this year. Albert Lea, Minn., received 14 inches, and Greeley, Neb., had 12.
Officials advised travelers to stay off Interstate 90 across southern Minnesota from Fairmont to the South Dakota line.
Just south of the Minnesota line along Interstate 35 at the Top of Iowa Welcome Center in Northwood, custodian Randy Krominga said the snow was blown by wind gusting to 50 mph.
"I thought we were supposed to have April showers. What happened to that?" Krominga said.
A rite of spring took a back seat to the weather as the storm postponed the home openers for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. The Pittsburgh Pirates' home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers was postponed by rain.
The snow hampered crews trying to restore electrical service to thousands of homes and businesses that were blacked out by weekend ice storms.
Utilities in southeastern Michigan said nearly 250,000 homes and businesses had no power Monday morning. DTE Energy officials were concerned about how Monday's heavy, sticky snow would affect power lines coated with a half-inch of ice.
Thousands of customers in upstate New York were waiting for service to be restored from a Friday ice storm in the Rochester area along Lake Ontario. Gov. George Pataki issued a disaster declaration Monday for 13 counties.
New York's Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports reported delays. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates all three, said airlines had canceled hundreds of flights.
About a dozen flights were canceled Monday at Tampa International Airport, all of them to destinations like New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, said Daniel Prather, assistant director of operations at Tampa International. On an average day, the airport sees two or three cancelations.
- Times staff writer Amy Wimmer contributed to this report.[Last modified April 8, 2003, 01:31:46]