Two-plus feet of snow buries parts of upstate New York

James Street in Syracuse on Monday morning

A wild mix of snow, sleet and rain battered a wide swath of upstate New York Monday, dumping nearly 30 inches of snow on some areas, closing scores of schools and knocking out power to more than 40,000 utility customers.

Travel advisories were issued by several central counties, and Chenango County southeast of Syracuse closed its roads so crews could clear some of the 25 inches of snow that fell on some rural areas.

"Don't leave if you don't have to," was the advice from Undersheriff James Lloyd. If people did need to venture onto the roads, Lloyd offered more advice.

"You've got to drive to the conditions of the road," he said. "If it gives you 20 miles an hour, you take 20 miles an hour. If it gives you 10 miles an hour, you take 10 miles an hour."

The latest in a series of severe storms this winter also brought freezing rain and sleet to some upstate areas already soggy from weekend rain and snow, causing flooding that closed roads in Ulster and Westchester counties.

Syracuse received another 13 inches from the storm, pushing the season total to 173.5 inches, making it the city's fourth snowiest. Schools in and around Syracuse canceled classes.

"Just another day in paradise," said Ann O'Hara, a school nurse in Syracuse who spent the morning digging out her car with the help of others.

Scores of schools from the Finger Lakes to the Adirondacks canceled classes or delayed their start by two hours.

About half of the 42,000 power outages reported at the storm's height were in the Albany area. Crews had the outages down to 36,000 by midday.

Tandem trucks were banned from traveling on most of the Thruway main line's nearly 500-mile length from late Sunday night until around 10:30 a.m. Monday. Numerous accidents were reported on upstate roads and highways. A fatal accident in the Adirondacks on Sunday was blamed on the weather, while police in Westchester say a woman died and a man was injured when they were struck by a vehicle while walking along a flooded road.

The wintry mix created treacherous driving conditions elsewhere, with morning commuters heading to Albany from northern suburbs forced to travel at a crawl along Interstate 87. Interstate 81's southbound lanes south of Syracuse were for closed a few hours when tractor-trailers jackknifed on an icy uphill stretch of the highway, state police said.

Madison and Oneida counties east of Syracuse each had 2-plus feet of snow, according to the National Weather Service. The Adirondacks received its share, with 24 inches reported in Old Forge, 27 inches recorded at Westport on Lake Champlain's western shore, and Saranac Lake topping out at 29 inches, the weather service said.

Mark Wysocki, a meteorologist at the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, said the storm was just the latest in a string of storms spawned by a weather pattern that set up in November and is likely to remain in place for a while.

"We're in a very active weather pattern where we have very cold air sitting over the Midwest and Plains," Wysocki said. "It's changed the storm track so storms are coming up the coast and tapping into a lot of moisture off the Atlantic."

He said the storm pattern was more typical than the mild winters seen in some recent years.

"Usually with these kinds of patterns, once they set up, you're stuck with them for the season," Wysocki said. "In fact, the next storm is already shaping up over the Rockies and will be here by midweek with rain along the Hudson River Valley and snow through western New York, Ontario and Michigan."

Western New York saw sunshine Monday but bitter cold temperatures in the teens and low 20s following a sloppy weekend that had people dodging record rain Saturday and shoveling snow on Sunday.

The National Weather Service said Saturday's 1.3 inches of wind-driven rain set a record for the date.

Sunday's snow brought another milestone. The 3.5-inch blanket pushed Buffalo past the 100-inch mark for the season - to 101 inches. The city's average is about 93 inches per winter.