(Reuters) - A winter storm bringing heavy winds and snow hit the U.S. New England region on Thursday, with some areas expected to see as much as 18 inches (46 cms) of snowfall, the U.S. National Weather Service said.
The service issued a winter storm warning for an area stretching from Massachusetts through most of Maine, where snow was falling at a rate of about 6 inches per hour in the southwestern part of the state, it said.
"The storm is just cranking up. Many areas in Maine are going to get 3 inches to 9 inches (7.6 cms to 22.9 cms) but there is going to be a corridor that gets a foot, or more," said Todd Foisy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine.
"It is strengthening explosively," he said of the storm that is expected to pass through Maine until Friday.
More than 5,000 customers were without power in New Hampshire and Maine on Thursday evening as a result of the storms, data from utility companies showed.
No major highway outages or flight cancellations have been reported as a result of the snow, a common part of winter in New England.
The weather service also issued a winter storm warning for parts of West Virginia and western Maryland.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle