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BOSTON (Reuters) - A rare October snowstorm barreled up the heavily populated East Coast on Saturday, threatening up to a foot of snow, cutting power to nearly a million households and forcing at least 1,000 flight cancellations.
Snow was falling from central Pennsylvania well into Massachusetts after blanketing parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland earlier in the day, AccuWeather.com said.
The storm brought more than an inch of snow to New York's Central Park, breaking a record that had stood since 1925, AccuWeather.com said. America's most populous city stood to get 3 to 6 inches of snow before the storm tapers off on Saturday night, AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Alan Reppert said.
Snow also fell in the capital, Washington.
Widespread power outages caused by snow, ice and falling trees were reported from the Mid-Atlantic into New England, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers in the dark.
Major delays were reported at Philadelphia International Airport and at New York-area airports. At least 1,000 flights had been canceled, and Teterboro Airport in New Jersey closed for a period of time, said flight tracking service FlightAware.com.
The snow posed traffic and parking problems for some 100,000 college football fans attending a game between Pennsylvania State and the University of Illinois in State College, Pennsylvania. Snow plows had to clear the field before the game.
"It's a strong storm for October," said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Paul Walker. "We don't usually see storms this deep and this strong."
The power outages included 287,943 customers reported by Connecticut Light and Power; 200,000 by PSE&G in New Jersey; more than 300,000 by First Energy in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; more than 50,000 by Consolidated Edison in New York and more than 66,000 by Allegheny Power in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In New York City, an encampment of several hundred members of the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting U.S. economic inequalities hunkered down in tents against wind, rain, sleet and snow.
The storm came a day after the city's fire department, citing safety hazards, confiscated generators that had been powering heat, computers and a kitchen in the park in New York's financial district.
For some in the path of the storm, the big flakes caused excitement instead of headaches.
"There's almost like an electric buzz when the first snow falls," said Anna Weltz, communications director for Seven Springs Mountain Resort, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
By early afternoon, 6 inches of snow were already on the ground at the family ski resort, where phones were ringing off the hook with people asking about opening day.
"And it's still coming down," said Weltz. "What a sight."
While October snow is not unprecedented, the storm could be record-setting in terms of snow totals.
Hartford, Connecticut, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Worcester, Massachusetts were among the cities that could be blanketed with up to a foot of snow, forecasters said.
Cities along the East Coast including Allentown, Boston and New York, typically see their first measurable snowfalls late November into mid-December, the Weather Channel said.
In Boston, the rain was expected to turn to snow overnight, bringing up to 4 inches, forecasters said.
Wind gusts along the coast could reach 45 miles per hour, forecasters said, adding to the tree limbs and power lines already expected to be down from the heavy, wet snow.
Additional reporting by Ben Schmitt in Pittsburgh, Dave Warner in Philadelphia and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Cooney