NEW YORK (AP) - The first snowstorm of the season to hit the New York City area brought several inches of snow, slowing Thursday's evening commute to a crawl, after contributing to at least seven deaths as it swept across the country.
The wet snowfall and wind gusts Thursday downed numerous tree branches throughout the city.
Police said people should stay indoors and avoid the roads. Commuters also were advised to avoid the Port Authority Bus Terminal due to overcrowding.
By 5:30 p.m., the terminal had become an immovable block of wall-to-wall commuters all gazing up at the schedule board. Lines of people waited to get into the terminal as officials urged them to take trains or ferries.
A mayoral spokesman says the early storm meant that Metropolitan Transportation Authority didn't have snow chains on its buses.
The first snowstorm of the season to hit the New York City area brought several inches of snow and slowed the evening commute to a crawl.
The wet snowfall and wind gusts Thursday downed numerous tree branches throughout the city. Police advised people to stay indoors and avoid the roads, if possible. A multi-vehicle accident on the George Washington Bridge added to the traffic nightmare.
There were scattered delays on the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit reported 30-minute delays system wide.
Flight delays of up to an hour were reported at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports.
The snow should turn to mostly sleet and rain after 7 p.m. before changing to rain overnight.
Wintry weather impacting states as far south as Alabama has reached New York City, where a coat of snow is covering streets and sidewalks.
The weather has left roads from the Mississippi River east filled with rush hour traffic Thursday, and has contributed to at least seven deadly traffic deaths.
Two of those deaths came from an overturned bus in Mississippi, three happened in Arkansas due to icy conditions and one each occurred in Ohio and Indiana.
Farther east, highway speed limits around much of Pennsylvania have been lowered to 45 mph (72 kph) because of car crashes. A meteorologist called the storm an "overperformer" when speaking with a newspaper north of Philadelphia.
About a dozen school districts in New Jersey and districts in Connecticut have decided to send students home early as rain, sleet and snow pebble the East Coast.
Hundreds of schools in the central U.S. closed Thursday morning, with as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) blanketing the St. Louis area by the early afternoon.
In Indianapolis, the National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning. The state's largest school district, Indianapolis Public Schools, closed classes citing "dangerously slick road conditions."
Forecasters were predicting up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in parts of southern New England, beginning in the mid-afternoon Thursday.
The University of Connecticut canceled all classes starting at 3:30 p.m. or later at its main campus, satellite campuses and law school. UConn Health was to remain open.
New Jersey residents are dealing with their first taste of wintry weather this season.
A mix of rain, sleet and snow started falling Thursday morning in southern areas and is expected to soon move across the state. Forecasters say anywhere from a coating to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow could fall overall, with northern areas seeing the higher accumulations and southern locations seeing mostly rain.
Most of the accumulations will likely be on cold and grassy surfaces. Most major roadways are expected to be wet, but authorities are urging drivers to be cautious since some slick or icy conditions could occur.
Some school districts are planning early dismissals Thursday.
The pre-winter storm slammed parts of the South and lower Midwest on Wednesday, causing five deaths on slippery roads and stranding travelers for more than eight hours on an icy Arkansas interstate.
A pre-winter storm slammed parts of the South and lower Midwest on Wednesday, causing five deaths on slippery roads and stranding travelers for more than eight hours on an icy Arkansas interstate.
The wintry weather is barreling east Thursday, with snow and ice expected from Ohio and the Appalachian Mountains through Washington, D.C., New York and New England.
In Mississippi, a tour bus bound for a casino overturned, leaving two people dead and 44 others injured. And in the Little Rock area, three people were killed in separate crashes on icy roads Wednesday night.
On Interstate 40 in east Arkansas, several crashes occurred near the White River bridge, stopping traffic overnight. The interstate reopened shortly before daybreak Thursday, but officials say traffic was slow-going because some drivers had fallen asleep.
(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)