Rare blizzard to wallop northern New England

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Photo -   Riders wait in a bus stop where color-tinted windows collect snow during a storm, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Portland, Maine. The National Weather Service says a blizzard warning is issued Friday evening for the southern coast. The forecast calls for up to 2 feet of snow and winds gusting to 50 mph.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Riders wait in a bus stop where color-tinted windows collect snow during a storm, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Portland, Maine. The National Weather Service says a blizzard warning is issued Friday evening for the southern coast. The forecast calls for up to 2 feet of snow and winds gusting to 50 mph.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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A winter storm contributed to a 19-car pileup, caused travel woes, and forced schools and businesses to close Friday as snowfall and wind continued to build, prompting a rare blizzard warning for coastal Maine and New Hampshire.

The warning, the first in the two states since late 2010, was in effect Friday night and Saturday morning and was accompanied by a coastal flood warning.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency Friday evening to allow for the mobilization of additional resources but stopped short of ordering everyone off the roads.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage declared a limited emergency to allow longer hours for utility crews in the event of power outages caused by high winds.

Across the region, the storm brought misery to travelers with disruptions to air travel, bus service, and Amtrak's Downeaster and Vermonter trains. Hundreds of schools and businesses closed for the day.

By the time the storm exits, coastal Maine and New Hampshire were expected to be visited by 50 mph gusts and covered in up to 2 feet of snow.

As the storm began, police were dealing with scores of cars sliding off the roads. Outside Portland, a car spun out Friday morning on Interstate 295 in Cumberland, leading to a 19-car pileup that took four hours to clear. One person was taken to the hospital with injuries that weren't life-threatening, police said.

For some, the winter storm was too much of a good thing.

In New Hampshire, Wildcat Mountain had to cancel the University of Connecticut's Skiing Carnival because of the snowstorm. In Maine, the National Toboggan Championships in Camden were postponed from Saturday to Sunday, and Camp Sunshine's Maine Polar Dip was postponed until March.

The postponement of Saturday's events at the National Toboggan Championships was a disappointment, but competitors took it in stride.

"We're ready to go. Whether or not it snows, we're prepared for the situation," said Art Dinsmore, whose team "Throbbin Boggin" is an 11-time champion.

The snow was a good thing for ski resorts.

One Vermont ski area that relies primarily on natural snow expected the storm would dump enough for it to reopen the mountain this weekend.

"We fully expect to have the all lifts and all trails, or darn close to it," said Eric Friedman, Mad River's marketing director. "We're going from zero to 100 percent in one day."

But some skiers feared they would be unable to get to the resorts.

"People who are trying to go (Saturday) could be putting their life in jeopardy. It could be a whiteout," said Don Martin, 52, a skier from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Backcountry hikers were warned to be careful, as well. New Hampshire officials told winter hikers of high-mountain whiteout conditions and 80 mph to 90 mph gusts.

The storm forecast prompted many New Englanders to dash to stores to stock up on wood pellets, food, gasoline and other storm necessities.

Before it started, Lynne Michaud of Boscawen and her young son loaded 40-pound bags of wood pellets into her car to feed the pellet stove in their basement.

"We know what we're dealing with. We live in New England," Michaud said in a Lowe's parking lot. "Now we're going to do the storm grocery shopping."

The U.S. Postal Service announced all post offices will be closed Saturday in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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Associated Press writers Lynne Tuohy in Concord, N.H., and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.

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