Trenton, NJ, April 10 (AP by Linda A. Johnson)--All set for an afternoon of sun, Barbara Randall had invited neighbors to join her at the beach for a day of picnicking and games.
It was canceled _ due to snow.
``My beach party is not happening because of the weather,'' the New Yorker said glumly. ``We were all set to go. We had all our beach stuff ready and it snowed.''
A spring snowstorm took the Northeast by surprise Sunday, knocking out power to thousands of homes, causing dozens of fender-benders on slick roads and endangering campers unprepared for plummeting temperatures.
About 100 hikers on the Appalachian Trail sought shelter Saturday in an open-air, lean-to in northwest New Jersey, where fierce winds pushed the wind chill to the single digits early Sunday.
Four hikers needed medical attention for hypothermia Sunday morning, and others _ most Boy Scouts _ were escorted off the trail.
``They got taken by surprise by the storm,'' said Sharon Southard, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. ``They probably had incorrect attire for this weather.''
Saturday's temperatures hit the 70s in many parts of the Northeast. By Sunday morning, the mercury was only in the 20s and low 30s. Albany, N.Y., had 12 inches of snow by midafternoon; Pennsylvania had nearly 7 inches; and 7 1/2 inches hit New Jersey's High Point.
Still, the storm was far from a record; the most recorded in Albany, N.Y., on April 9 is 17.7 inches, in 1982, the National Weather Service said.
Snowflakes fell as far south as Washington, D.C., where little more than a tenth of an inch dusted the few blossoms remaining on the last day of the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Ryan Rafalowski, 24, an accountant in the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown, wasn't fond of it all. ``I don't mind the cold weather, but I want it to be consistent,'' he said.
The snow petered out by early afternoon, but the wind didn't. A high wind advisory for the whole state and a gale warning for the coast were in effect all day.
Gusts of 39 mph were reported at the airports in Newark and Teterboro in the afternoon, but by then the sun was out, pushing the mercury to 40 degrees and melting most of the snow.
Still, vehicles sliding into utility poles and trees toppled by wind gusts tore down power lines, leaving more than 6,500 New Jersey customers without electricity at some point Sunday, utilities reported.
Pennsylvania utilities reported only minor, scattered outages while as many as 15,000 homes and businesses were blacked out in eastern New York. Delays were reported at Newark Airport and LaGuardia International Airport.
Sunday's CART auto car race at Pennsylvania's Nazareth Speedway had to be put off until May.
``I thought maybe I should come with my snowmobile,'' said racing great Mario Andretti.
Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press