Snow and flooding wallop New England

MONTPELIER, Vt. —A fierce storm blanketed northern New England and upstate New York with up to 30 inches of snow Monday, while western Connecticut was deluged with so much rain that parts of homes and cars floated down a swollen river.

In northern Vermont, drifting and blowing snow caused whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, and a 10- to 12-mile section of I- 89 was closed for hours. Thirty inches of snow was reported in Jericho in northwestern Vermont at midday, the National Weather Service said, and the Burlington Airport saw its biggest March snowfall on record: 24.3 inches of snow by 5 p.m.

Spring's arrival in just two weeks meant the most popular types of snow shovels were sold out at Aubuchon Hardware in downtown Montpelier and grass seed was on display.

"Smile, folks — it's coming," Tom Walbridge said of spring.

The storm helped push the winter of 2010-11 up the record list. The 13 inches that fell in Syracuse, N.Y., made it the fourth-snowiest winter on record there, with a season total to 173.5 inches. Rochester, N.Y., surpassed 112 inches by Sunday, more than 30 inches above normal.

It's the fourth-snowiest winter on record in Burlington, at 121.4 inches, and the storm appeared potent enough to challenge the famous Valentine's Day blitz in 2007 that dumped 25.7 inches on Burlington, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Taber.

"We had almost a tropical air mass across southern New England that was trying to push north at the same time a polar air mass was trying to push south," he said.

"It was that battleground that created this intense snowfall."

Vermonters are used to winter weather, but some were surprised by this storm, said Sotera Maglaris, manager of the Arcadia Diner in South Burlington. "They're surprised on how much snow we actually did end up getting and how bad the roads (are)," she said of her customers.

Schools and other public facilities closed across the region. Most nonessential state employees were given the day off.

A utility crew repairing downed power lines in the southern Vermont town of Baltimore was forced to leave because ice-laden trees were coming down around them.

Heavy rain fell in western Massachusetts, where a mudslide in Greenfield forced at least two families from their homes and buried at least three cars.

In western Connecticut, heavy rain and melting snow combined to cause major flooding and mudslides. Officials in Shelton reported that parts of two homes and two cars were swept into the Housatonic River. They appeared to be unoccupied, officials said. No injuries were reported.

The Housatonic was reported to be about 10 feet above the flood stage at the Stevenson Dam.

Several rivers were nearing flood stage in New Hampshire as heavy rains combined with melting snow.

Parts of upstate New York were buried under more than 2 feet of heavy snow, combined with freezing rain, sleet and 30 mph winds. Scores of schools were closed and thousands lost power.