By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, Dec 27 (Reuters) - A powerful winter storm forced the cancellation of about 200 U.S. flights on Thursday, snarling holiday travel as heavy snow and high winds pummeled the northeastern United States.
The National Weather Service forecast 12 to 18 inches (30.5 to 46 cm) of snow for northern New England as the storm moved northeast out of the lower Great Lakes, where it dumped more than a foot (30.5 cm) of snow in parts of Michigan.
The storm front was accompanied by freezing rain and sleet. The Ohio River Valley and the Northeast were under blizzard and winter storm warnings.
Snow will fall in northern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire at up to 2 inches (5 cm) an hour, with winds gusting to 30 mph (48 km per hour), the weather agency said.
About 200 U.S. airline flights scheduled for Thursday were canceled a day ahead of time, according to FlightAware.com, a website that tracks flights.
American Airlines had the most canceled at about 30. A total of about 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled on Wednesday.
New York state activated its Emergency Operations Center late on Wednesday to deal with the first major storm of the season.
Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the heads of seven utilities they would be held accountable for their performances. Utilities near New York City were criticized for lingering outages after Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in October.
The storm comes as New York state has seen little snow during autumn and winter. Buffalo, New York, was 23 inches (58 cm) below normal for the season before the storm, said Bill Hibbert, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
"We're short and even this big snow isn't going to make it up for us," he said.
The storm dumped record snow in north Texas and Arkansas before it swept through the U.S. South on Christmas Day and then veered north. The system spawned tornadoes and left almost 200,000 people in Arkansas and Alabama without power on Wednesday.
At least five people were killed in road accidents related to the bad weather, police said.