The first winter storm of the season dumps heavy snow closing roads and public transit in New Jersey.

Most of the state was  placed under a Winter Storm Warning by the National Weather Service on Wednesday. The storm brought as much as 18 inches of snow in some parts of of the Garden State.

Snow began in the afternoon on Wednesday and could last until into the afternoon on Thursday. Winds reached as high a 45 mph.

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency on Wednesday due to the storm. Murphy also initiated a staggered closing for state offices beginning 1 p.m. Wednesday. The early dismissal did not include weather-essential employees. Private companies and businesses were advised dismiss employees at their own discretion.

“Safety is our top priority,” Murphy said. “We ask that residents stay off of the roads as we deploy resources to clear snow.”

Officials are still advising residents to stay off the roads to allow salt spreaders to move on streets. New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials issued a Winter Weather Congestion Alert based on the forecast for heavy snow, which may result in difficult driving conditions.

NJDOT is is coordinating its response with the NJ State Police, NJ Transit and the toll road authorities to ensure the best response for New Jerseyans.

“New Jersey’s transportation agencies are prepared and ready for the storm. NJDOT, the Turnpike Authority and SJTA combined are activating nearly 4,000 plows and spreaders,” said Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “We ask the public to stay off the roads during the storm so our crews can do their jobs to get the highways clear.”

NJ Transit temporarily suspended rail and service on Wednesday in northern and central Jersey. Crews worked overnight throughout the system to address storm-related damages and will make a full system safety assessment before service can be restored.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signed an executive order declaring a snow emergency in the City of Newark from 4 p.m. Wednesday continuing for a minimum of 24 hours, unless extended.

Baraka and Department of Health and Community Wellness Director Dr. Mark Wade activated a “Code Blue” for Wednesday to Friday. “Code Blue” is called when temperatures reach 25°F, or lower without precipitation, 32°F or lower with precipitation, or a wind chill factor of 0° or lower.

“Newark is preparing for cold temperatures and snow beginning Wednesday and lasting through Friday morning. Accumulations of eight inches to 12-inches are possible with temperatures as low as 21°F. I urge our residents to take precautions to keep their homes safe and to be warm when they are out, and to check on their neighbors, especially the disabled, children, and the elderly,” said Mayor Baraka.

In addition, residents are reminded of the hazards of extremely cold weather.

“Several layers of warm clothing and protection against moisture and wind are important, even though weather may not seem to threaten cold injury. Gloves and socks should be kept as dry as possible. Insulated boots that do not obstruct circulation are essential in very cold weather. Warm head covering is particularly important, since 30 percent of heat loss is from the head,” said Dr. Wade.

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