PHILADELPHIA -- Another icy storm barreled into the winter-weary Northeast on Thursday as utility companies, airlines and others planned for what could team up with wet, heavy snowfall to be the most damaging part: high winds.
Even coastal New England, where rain was falling but nothing like the 18 inches of snow expected in some parts of northern New Jersey and upstate New York, was under coastal flood watches because of the wind.
The National Weather Service put much of the East Coast under wind advisories and warnings from 4 p.m. Thursday until as late as 7 a.m. Friday. The agency warned that winds could blow steadily between 20 and 30 mph in some areas, with gusts of 55 mph or higher in coastal and mountainous areas.
By late morning, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., reported the strongest scattered gusts so far -- a not-so-damaging 25 mph -- with snow totals in the 2-inch range.
While forecasters can predict the snow totals and what that will mean -- slippery roads, a snow day for the kids -- it's trickier to know whether winds might create havoc.
"Your tree may fall down; your neighbor's may not," said Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, a private forecasting company in State College, Pa.
She said dense, wet snow weighing down trees would make it more likely for strong winds to knock them down.
In upstate New York, the dangers are well understood.
In a storm hit the area with up to 2 feet of snow on Wednesday, some 150,000 homes and businesses lost power. By late Thursday morning, 60,000 customers were still without power, mostly in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.
A pair of blizzards this month in New Jersey each knocked out 80,000 to 90,000 customers, mostly on the shore. Public Service Electric and Gas Co. in New Jersey had extra crews and supplies ready in case power lines start coming down this week.
Officials at Philadelphia International Airport said that by Thursday morning, nearly one-fifth of the flights scheduled there for the day had been scratched. The predictions of strong winds later in the day were the main reason, said airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica.
The Delaware River Port Authority announced Thursday that no empty tractor-trailers would be allowed on its four Philadelphia-area bridges after 7 p.m., another nod to the wind forecast.
Winter storm warnings stretched into Ohio and along much of the Appalachian Mountains, with snow and wind expected as far south as the Tennessee-North Carolina line.
The National Weather Service on Thursday slightly downgraded some of its snowfall predictions, though the deepest totals were still in the 18-inch range. Forecasters said the snow would pile up a bit less than originally expected because it's so heavy.
In snow-weary Philadelphia, this winter had set a seasonal record of more than 70 inches of snow even before the first flakes began falling Thursday. The new snow started arriving just as Philadelphia and New Jersey finally finished cleaning up from the two blizzards that deposited more than 3 feet of snow a few weeks ago.
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the New York City area and Philadelphia airports. Continental Airlines canceled 70 of its 200 flights at the major international airport in Newark, N.J., as well as all 200 flights planned by regional partners. Southwest scratched most of its Philadelphia flights.
Thousands of schools across the region either closed or planned to let out early.
The speed limit on New Jersey's Atlantic City Expressway was reduced to 35 mph and transportation officials in Pennsylvania said they would close interstates in eastern Pennsylvania if conditions got bad enough.
New York State Police attributed one fatal traffic accident Thursday to the weather.
In Allentown, Pa., in the Lehigh Valley, 52-year-old Jim Yourgal put on knee-high snow boots and trudged three miles to his job as a valet at an orthopedic center. He figured he wouldn't be driving home in a foot of snow. His dedication was no big deal, he said.
"What else am I going to do, read a book at home? I can do that on the weekend," he said.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pa., Randy Pennell in Philadelphia, Shawn Marsh in Trenton, N.J., and Kiley Armstrong and Ula Ilnytzky in New York City, along with AP Airlines Writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis.