A storm bringing light snow and more bitter cold temperatures hit the Garden State Wednesday morning, tying up traffic during the commute and leading to the deaths of a brother and sister on their way to school.
Forecasters said the storm, which started just before daybreak, was moving from northwest to southeast, and unlike storms that often bring a mixture of rain and snow, had dropped snow across all corners of the state.
"March can still produce snowfall in this area," said Ray Kruzdlo, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Mount Holly office. "March in this area is the third snowiest month of the year."
In Jackson, authorities said Andrew Miller was driving his sister, Shatone Glover, to school when his Nissan Maxima went off the side of the road and smashed into a tree around 7 a.m., killing them both.
Authorities said the bad weather, the driver's inexperience, and the fact that he may have been driving too fast for the slippery conditions all contributed to the accident.
State police spokesman Stephen Jones said troopers had responded to more than 400 calls on roads they patrol since 6 a.m., which is much higher than normal.
Across the state snow plows cleared roads while New Jerseyans brushed fluffy snow from their vehicles and shoveled sidewalks.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Erin Phalon said the department began salting the roads around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and around noon had about 500 trucks on the roads spreading salt. She said, so far, the department has not had to call out snow plows since there was no accumulation on the ground.
"Our crews will continue to work throughout the day and into the night if necessary to ensure safety on the state's roadways," Phalon said.
In front of Walker's Wines & Spirits in Lambertville, 17 miles northwest of Trenton, manager Phil Faherty came in an hour early to clear the sidewalk in front of the building.
"I could really do without it," Faherty said. "Hopefully spring will be sprung soon."
But Roeland van Dommelen, a limousine driver who was having a morning cup of coffee at the Lambertville Trading Co., laughed when asked about Wednesday's storm.
"It's not a storm. It's just a little flurry," van Dommelen said. "This is no big deal."
While snowfall this year has been below average, the Department of Transportation has asked for an additional $10 million for snow-removal. Phalon said when the department was allocated an initial $11.8 million in last year's budget, it was with the understanding that the department could ask for an additional $10 million if needed. She said the department this year has had 21 snow-related "events" that have required DOT response.
"Freezing rain is just as hazardous as two inches of flaky snow when pavement temperatures are fairly warm. So it's not necessarily a question of how much snow accumulates," Phalon said.
She said that during the last five years the department has spent an average of $25.5 million for snow removal; if the department receives the additional money, that would bring the total money allocated toward snow-removal to $21.8 million for this fiscal year.