NEW YORK (AP) — A sloppy, blustery late-season storm lashed the Northeast with sleet and more than a foot of snow in places Tuesday, paralyzing much of the Washington-to-Boston corridor after a remarkably mild February had lulled people into thinking the worst of winter was over.

The powerful nor'easter grounded nearly 6,000 flights, knocked out power to almost a quarter-million customers from Virginia northward, closed schools in cities big and small and prompted dire warnings to stay off the roads. Amtrak suspended service and the post office halted mail delivery.

As the morning wore on, the storm track shifted slightly and snow switched to sleet in Philadelphia and New York, prompting forecasters to lift blizzard warnings for the two big cities and cut their prediction of a foot or more of snow by over half.


But Boston was still in the crosshairs, with up to a foot expected in the metropolitan area and gusts up to 75 mph forecast along the Massachusetts coast. And inland areas up and down the Northeast got clobbered.

Towns along Pennsylvania's northern tier had nearly 16 inches of snow before 9 a.m., while a foot fell in the state capital of Harrisburg and nearly 2 feet in the Pocono Mountains. Wantage Township, New Jersey, got at least 17 inches.

"The winters seem to be upside down now. January and February are nice and then March and April seem to be more wintry than they were in the past," said Bob Clifford, who ventured out on an early morning grocery run for his family in Altamont, near Albany, New York.

His advice: "Just hide inside. Hibernate."

The above-ground portions of the New York subway system were shut down, and the flight cancellations included nearly 3,300 in the New York City area alone. Hundreds of passengers were stranded at airports.