PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A winter storm blew through northern New England on Monday, dumping 2 feet of snow in spots, forcing hundreds of schools to cancel classes and leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power.
At midday, more than 145,000 utility customers in Maine lacked electricity as wet, heavy snow snapped tree limbs, power lines and utility poles overnight.
At least four warming shelters have been set up in Maine, in Windham, Boothbay, Mount Desert and Waterboro.
Temperatures in Maine were in the low 30s Monday afternoon, but winds gusting to 35 mph made it feel colder. Lows for early Tuesday are forecast in the single digits in northern Maine and about 20 degrees in the south, the National Weather Service said.
"With the winds picking up later today, things could get worse before they get better," said Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice.
Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency extending the hours that power crews can work to restore electricity. Baldacci, who was in Washington attending a National Governors Association conference, decided to return to Maine on Monday afternoon.
Heavy snow still fell across most of Maine on Monday morning, with some places reporting rates of 3 to 4 inches per hour.
In Vermont, driving snow covered roads and forced the closure of northbound Interstate 89 between Waterbury and Richmond late Monday morning because of accidents, the Vermont State Police said.
"We're having a hell of a time right now," said Larry Dodge, a Vermont Transportation Agency dispatcher.
About 18,500 customers of Public Service Company of New Hampshire lost power. By noon, power had been restored to all but about 3,000 homes and businesses, mostly in eastern New Hampshire from Raymond north to Rochester.
The snow resulted in hundreds of schools canceling classes for the day in Maine, which was supposed to be the first day back after a weeklong vacation. The storm caused some school closings in Vermont and New Hampshire, but many were already closed for vacation.
The deepest snowfall was in the northern Maine town of Milo, which received 28 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Other impressive amounts included 26 inches in Farmington and 25 inches in Bridgton, both in Maine. New Durham, N.H., reported 17 inches of snowfall.
Airports in northern New England reported minimal delays and no cancellations.
Ski areas were mostly thrilled with the latest storm.
"What we keep hearing is good snow is trumping bad economy, and thus far we've found that to be true," said Vermont Ski Areas spokeswoman Jen Butson.
Bretton Woods ski area in New Hampshire, as well as Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine, reported more than 20 inches of snow.
But the storm wasn't all good news at the Sugarbush ski area in Warren, Vt., which has received 56 inches of snow since Thursday. High winds forced it to close its lifts. But the forecast for the rest of the week is ideal, said spokesman JJ Toland.
"We're crying into our Gor-Tex today," Toland said Monday. "We'll be smiling ear to ear tomorrow."
Associated Press writers Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.