National Guard crews going car-to-car finally opened the New York State Thruway early Friday after a powerful storm dumped more than two feet of snow on western New York.
New York Gov. George Pataki declared a disaster emergency for 17 counties after Thursday's storm closed schools, businesses, and the Rochester airport.
At one point, 130 miles of the thruway were closed and National Guard members, in Humvees, took food to motorists. South of Rochester, as many as 800 cars were stranded and some motorists were trapped for up to 10 hours by snow, blustery winds, and bitter cold.
"I'm really not too fond of it I'm ready for spring," said Nicolle Lynch, 29, who was forced to take a day off from Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester. Her husband's car got stuck in knee-high drifts.
The same storm system dumped more than a foot of snow on Maryland, cutting electricity to 35,000 homes, and up to 16 inches of snow on Pennsylvania, knocking out power to thousands of homes from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia until early Friday.
"Terrible," said Mardee Ivory, a receptionist at Lakeview Animal Hospital in Latrobe, Pa. "I got in here barely by the skin of my teeth."
An Amtrak train collided with a car stuck in the snow on tracks in the Rochester suburb of Gates on Thursday. The driver and her 12-year-old daughter were able to get out just in time, aided by snowplow driver Lab Beach.
"I just made sure they were OK, and then I had to plow the roads," said Beach, who was working a 20-hour shift.
Buffalo received about five inches, the city's first significant snowfall since January, when five feet of snow piled up in a two-week period.
The snow was forecast but it still surprised Maryland residents spoiled by a mild winter, including temperatures near 70 degrees on Wednesday.
"I'm just totally caught off guard," said court clerk Barbara Fishack as she trudged through six inches of snow on a downtown Hagerstown sidewalk. "We didn't expect it."
©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report