ALBANY, N.Y. — A powerful winter storm dumped a foot or more of snow in the Northeast on Wednesday, knocking out power to thousands and stalling air traffic from Boston to Philadelphia, all ahead of a second system packing strong winds that could blanket the area with another foot of snow.
The storm cut a swath from eastern Pennsylvania into northern New England, slamming typically snowy regions that had been spared the paralyzing storms that hit cities farther south earlier this winter. About 150,000 customers lost power Wednesday, hundreds of schools were closed and at least three traffic deaths were blamed on the storm.
An 89-year-old woman died in a crash in New York's Hudson Valley. In Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, a woman and a boy died when their vehicle slid off snow- and ice-covered Interstate 80; the man driving the car was not expected to survive.
The system was the first of a one-two winter punch. Another storm forecast to hit today is expected to pack winds of up to 50 mph, which could cause more power outages, and dump a foot or more of snow on some areas by Friday. Meteorologists said some areas of New York's Adirondack and Catskill mountains and Vermont's Green Mountains could get as much as 2 feet by the weekend.
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Philadelphia, which has gotten a record 70.3 inches of snow and is still digging out from earlier back-to-back storms, could see as much as a foot of snow.
"It might not be until early next week that we get rid of the storm completely," said meteorologist Hugh Johnson of the National Weather Service's Albany office.
A description of the coming storm as a "snowicane" by State College, Pa.-based Accuweather Inc. touched off criticism by the National Weather Service.
On Tuesday, 48 hours before the storm was to hit, Accuweather called it "hurricane-like," a "monster" and a "powerful storm of historical proportions" that would wreak havoc from Pennsylvania to Maine and by Wednesday was using the term "snowicane."
That prompted a stern response from National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego.
"It's almost inciting the public, inciting panic," he said.
The Weather Channel called the hurricane talk "bad meteorology."
The northern edge of Wednesday's storm reached into the Massachusetts' Berkshires, Vermont and New Hampshire, dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas and prompting flooding concerns in Maine.
Other cities were preparing for another blast of winter.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was making sure building owners were aware of the predicted high winds and were taking steps to tie down anything that could come loose.
"My hope is that the snow will stay to the north and west of us and we'll just have rain — our kids need another school day," Bloomberg said.