Swirling Snowstorm Batters Tri-State, Breaks Snowfall Records

jan 21 storm car traffic

A swirling snowstorm broke breaking snowfall records as it battered the tri-state Tuesday, forcing schools and offices to close early, delaying flights and making the roadways a dangerous mess. 

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By the time the storm tapered off Wednesday morning, between 10 and 15 were on the ground in the southern portions of Brooklyn and Queens, central and coastal New Jersey, and on Long Island. Other parts of New York City and areas north of the city saw more than 10 inches of accumulation. 

By early Wednesday, parts of New Jersey and Long Island had as much as 15 inches, while Central Park and parts of Connecticut and Westchester County had more than 10 inches. Snow got heavier as the day progressed, falling as fast as 1 to 2 inches per hour. The storm is also bringing a blast of arctic cold that is expected to freeze the region for nearly a week.

The National Weather Service was reporting records for daily maximum snowfall were broken at LaGuardia, Central Park and Islip. 

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The snowfall was accompanied by lightning, bitterly cold winds gusting up to 30 mph and temperatures in the teens and single digits. It could feel as cold as 10 degrees below zero overnight with wind chills.

The blowing and drifting snow caused hazardous travel and walking conditions across the area. Drivers were urged to stay off the roads, and if they must travel, keep a flashlight, food and water in their vehicles in case of emergencies. 

A state of emergency was declared in parts of New York and all of New Jersey. The blinding snow and massive accumulations caused numerous problems throughout the area.


  • Hundreds of schools were closed or delayed Wednesday. Check your school here.
  • New York City schools will be open Wednesday, and all after-school programs, field trips and PSAL games will operate on a normal schedule. "Travel conditions may be difficult, and families should exercise judgment when taking their children to school," Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a statement. 


  • MTA will run close to normal subway service Wednesday, with express service restored during the morning rush hour. City buses will operate at 80 to 90 percent of normal levels; most of the buses are outfitted with chains, but many were getting stuck in the snow Tuesday.
  • LIRR will operate on a weekend schedule Wednesday, which provides 60 to 65 percent of the trains available on a regular weekday. Passengers were reporting that trains were extra crowded Tuesday afternoon as commuters tried to get home early ahead of the storm.
  • Metro-North will operate at 80 to 85 percent of its normal weekday service, with some trains combined and some delays possible.
  • NJ Transit trains will operate on an enhanced weekend schedule on all lines Wednesday except the Atlantic City Rail. Buses and light rail will run on regular weekday schedules but customers should expect delays. NJT is cross-honoring systemwide on Wednesday, and will keep waiting rooms open 24/7 through Jan. 27.
  • NY Waterway ferries are operating normally. Due to ice on the Hudson River, buses are operating between Newburgh and the Metro-North station in Beacon, and between Haverstraw and the Metro-North station in Ossining. 
  • Amtrak is operating on a modified schedule on the Northeast Corridor, Empire and Keystone lines. Check amtrak.com for service alerts. 
  • Hundreds of flights have been canceled out of the area's three major airports, according to FlightAware. [PHOTO via Twitter]


  • In New York City, track snow plows here.
  • In New York City, alternate side parking is suspended Wednesday, but parking meter rules are still in effect. Drivers on the Upper East Side complained about unplowed streets and stalled traffic; city officials said the number of vehicles on the streets made it difficult to clear snow during the day but expected it would be easier overnight.
  • In New Jersey, a snow emergency has been declared in Essex County, meaning residents and motorists cannot park their cars on county roads while crews clear the roads. In Jersey City, vehicles may not be parked within 25 feet of an intersection.
  • The Garden State Parkway reduced its speed limit to 35 mph, but traffic was crawling at about 10 mph. Route 80 eastbound was shut down in Parsippany for a few hours after an NJ Transit bus caught fire. There were no injuries. Also on Route 80, a charter bus overturned and rolled down an embankment in Roxbury. Three people had minor injuries in the apparent weather-related accident, according to police. 
  • The Long Island Expressway remains open but drivers are urged to stay off the highway. Motorists reported bumper-to-bumper traffic and hours-long delays. The L.I.E. was shut down during the last storm; authorities say snowfall is stretching out over a long enough period that quickly accumulating snow didn't pose as much of a threat. 

Send us your storm photos! Email stormteam@nbcnewyork.com, tweet #NBC4NY, or upload them here. 

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