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What spring? Snow snarls traffic, flights on East Coast

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A broken tree branch is seen on a snow covered residential street following a winter storm in Omaha, Nebraska, December 20, 2012. The first major winter storm of the year took aim at the U.S. Midwest on Thursday, triggering high wind and blizzard warnings across a widespread area, and a threat of tornadoes in Gulf Coast states to the south.
REUTERS/Stringer
A broken tree branch is seen on a snow covered residential street following a winter storm in Omaha, Nebraska, December 20, 2012. The first major winter storm of the year took aim at the U.S. Midwest on Thursday, triggering high wind and blizzard warnings across a widespread area, and a threat of tornadoes in Gulf Coast states to the south. REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters) - The first Monday of spring brought snow instead of sunshine along the East Coast, snarling the morning commute in the densely populated stretch between Washington and New York.

A storm that had dropped significant amounts of snow across the Midwest over the weekend rolled across Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey, bringing a slushy mix of snow and rain that prompted school closings and contributed to traffic accidents around the region.

Around Washington, the wet, heavy snow shut down schools or delayed openings throughout the area, and local governments also moved back their opening times. Local utilities reported scattered outages.

For the first time since January 2011, snow measured more than an inch at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The National Weather Service had winter storm warnings in effect from Massachusetts to South Carolina, with as much as 10 inches recorded in mountainous parts of West Virginia and up to a foot expected in Pittsburgh.

"Right now the eastern suburbs of (Washington) D.C. are still seeing moderate it snow and it's extending up through Baltimore and into northeastern Maryland," said Heather Sheffield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia. She said the storm was moving north and snow showers were expected through the day.

Nearly 500 flights in the United States had been canceled, mostly in the New York City area, according to FlightAware.com.

The storm's effects were likely to be felt as far north as Boston, though it was not expected to drop much snow on most of New England, said Tom Kines, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.

"This storm will be different than most we've seen this winter," Kines said. "Most of the storms have affected a good chunk of New England and this one looks like it will head out to sea before then."

Winter's stubborn persistence on the fifth day after the official start of spring has started to take a toll on some parts of the country. Last week an Ohio prosecutor said he would like to charge Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating groundhog who in February called for an early spring, with fraud.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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