Created: 03/26/2014 8:26 PM
By: STEVE ANDRADA
CHATHAM, Mass. (AP) — An Atlantic storm created blizzard conditions in parts of the Northeast corridor on Wednesday while whipping Maine and Massachusetts with wind gusts that fanned a Boston brownstone fire that killed two firefighters. In West Virginia, two people were killed in a traffic pileup blamed on poor visibility caused by snow.
The storm dumped up to 10 inches on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard before pummeling eastern Maine with wind-whipped snow and gusts reaching 60 mph.
"There's a lot of snow. It's hard to tell how much because it's blowing sideways outside," said Suzannah Gale, owner of the Homeport Inn in Lubec, Maine, which is known for its candy-striped lighthouse at the nation's eastern tip.
Up and down the coast, the wind caused havoc.
Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts, saw winds gusting to 80 mph. Off the Maine coast, a weather buoy recorded a 107 mph gust, but weather forecasters questioned the accuracy of the reading. There were scattered power outages across the region.
In Boston, the powerful wind sent smoke billowing through the Back Bay neighborhood Wednesday as firefighters battled a large fire in a four-story brownstone. Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said he had never seen a fire travel so fast and escalate so quickly and he believes that was because of strong winds, with gusts of up to 45 mph, off the nearby Charles River.
The two firefighters who died, Michael R. Kennedy and Lt. Edward J. Walsh, had been trapped in the building's basement.
The combination of wind and snow created whiteout conditions that were blamed on a pair of pileups involving 40 vehicles Wednesday on Interstate 81 around Falling Waters, W.Va. Two people were killed and seven were injured, state police said.
Just days after the official end of one of the snowiest winters on record, the storm began heading up the Interstate 95 corridor on Tuesday.
As the storm moved north, it dropped about 6 inches of snow in southern Delaware's Sussex County and blanketed parts of southern New Jersey, where 6 1/2 inches of snow was reported in Cape May. Eastern Maine was expected to get 6 to 10 inches of snow.
Offshore, hurricane-force winds were reported, but the region's fishing fleet and commercial vessels already had scattered to safe harbors.
The bitter chill served as a bitter pill for people gearing up for warmer weather.
"It's ridiculous — utterly ridiculous," said Mark Krause, manager of Sagamore Beach Ace Hardware, where snow shovels recently were put away to make room for lawn fertilizer. "It's supposed to be 50. Everyone's supposed to be out working in their yards. I don't get it."
March is supposed to go out like a lamb, "but this is not a lamb," said George Hermanspan, who was fueling school buses in the neighboring village of Cedarville. "It shouldn't be happening. But Mother Nature does what she wants, and there's nothing much we can do or say about it."
Although spring began a week ago, it's not unusual to have storms so late in the year, weather service meteorologist Bill Simpson said. The Boston area got more than 2 inches of snow in an April storm last year and was blanketed with almost 2 feet the same month in 1997.
In Maine, snowfall in late March is even more common: "You don't put the shovel away until at least May. You never know," Gale said in Lubec.
Associated Press writers Bill Kole in Bourne, Mass., Paige Sutherland in Boston and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.
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