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Winter Wallop! // In Northeast, snow chokes cities, travel

Central New Jersey is pounded by more than 2 feet; a record 12 inches falls on New York's Central Park.

A record snowstorm, the Northeast's first major nor'easter in five years, dumped more than two feet of snow in central New Jersey, canceling hundreds of flights and slowing motorists to a crawl.

Philadelphia declared a snow emergency, and New York sent National Guard troops to the southeast corner of the state. All of the New York City area's major airports were closed.

"It's too dangerous, people's lives are at stake," bus driver James McCain said after a harrowing trip into New York City from Montclair, N.J. He got stuck behind another skidding bus on the ramp into the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and his 11 passengers got out and hoofed it.

Others chose to see the brighter side.

"You don't hear a sound in the world," said Jeffrey Greene, 56, of Merion, Pa., as he walked a mile to his synagogue. "There's nothing quite like a walk in the morning with a new snow. The world seems so pure, so beautiful."

In many ways, it was a day best enjoyed by children. Seventy-five youngsters flocked to a small hill in Linwood, N.J., to fly down on sleds and toboggans.

"Even though it's not that big of a hill, it's still pretty slippery-slidey," said Lisa Grossman, 14.

As much as 25 inches of snow had fallen by mid afternoon at Randolph in central New Jersey's Morris County, and more than a half-foot accumulated in parts of eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

New York City's Central Park had 12 inches by early afternoon, a record for the date, before the snowfall eased and started turning to slush. North of the city, suburban White Plains reported 14 inches. Newark, N.J., also collected a record with 13.7 inches and Bridgeport, Conn., had a record 9 inches.

The region's last big storm was on Jan. 7, 1996, when 19 inches of snow fell on New York City. Last winter, the city got a mere 13 inches for the whole season.

The central East Coast escaped the expected brunt of Saturday's storm because it developed farther north and east than forecast. The morning sky was clear in Washington and Harrisburg, Pa., while snow extended from southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania to the southern tip of Maine.

Kara Grossman took a train from Watertown, Mass., to Newark. "It was kind of scary looking out the windows," she said. "You couldn't see anything. It was all white. We thought we were in a cloud."

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani discounted any speculation that the weather might cancel the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. "Although it's cold, it's not unbearable," he said.

Philadelphia Mayor John Street declared a snow emergency, meaning only emergency vehicles were allowed downtown.

New York Gov. George Pataki activated 180 National Guard troops with 26 vehicles to help in southeastern New York.

"You can't see any of the runways, it's completely white," would-be traveler Kristin Foschi said from a terminal at New York's LaGuardia airport. "By the time a plow completes a circle, it's covered again. It's really quite entertaining."

Newlyweds Tim and Tracy Scanlon of Morris Plains, N.J., were stuck at Newark International Airport because the snow grounded their flight to the Cayman Islands for their 10-day honeymoon.

"All the airport hotels are sold out. And I can't even get a limo here to pick me up," Tim Scanlon said.

Philadelphia's airports stayed open but airlines there reported delays and cancellations. Amtrak canceled Metroliner service between New York and Washington although most other trains kept running. New Jersey Transit suspended bus service in several counties and bus service in and out of the Port Authority in Manhattan was suspended.

"This is a grand adventure," Dale Livingston of Montclair, N.J., said as his bus skidded sideways up a hill in Bloomfield, N.J.

Residents had plenty of warning that the storm would be formed by the combination of one weather system that had plastered the upper Midwest with snow and another that spread ice across the south-central states.

Highway and street crews were ready with hundreds of trucks and plows and people jammed stores as they stocked up on supplies.

"We've been buried here. It's unbelievable," said Don Ackerman, sales manager at Don's Power Equipment Co. in Westbrook, Maine. He expected to sell up to 35 snow blowers ranging from $399 to $2,500 apiece.

Thousands in Arkansas still without power

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. _ Frigid temperatures and ice hampered electric workers Saturday as they struggled to restore power to more than 130,000 Arkansas homes and businesses almost a week after a Christmas Day storm.

"The biggest problem . . . continues to be the cold temperatures," said Robert Lesley, spokesman for Entergy, the state's largest electric provider. "It's just hard to work when it's this cold outside."

A layer of ice up to half an inch thick remained on most trees and power lines from the Dec. 25 ice storm that devastated the southern Plains.

In Oklahoma, about 91,600 homes and businesses remained in the dark Saturday, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management.

Utility crews have worked 18-20 hour days since the storm struck, said foreman Jerry Hunter.

In northeast Texas, more than 11,700 homes were without power. About 10,000 of those were in Texarkana, leaving about one-third of the city without power.

"I got the burners on the kitchen cook stove on. That's how we're surviving," said Mary Jones, whose lights in DeKalb, Texas, went out just after her family of five finished Christmas Day lunch.

The majority of the outages in Arkansas _ about 44,000 customers _ were in Little Rock and Hot Springs, Lesley said.