Winter Storm Avery Update: Snow Snarls Traffic, Causes Hundreds of Wrecks in NYC, New Jersey

Commuters across New Jersey and into New York were caught in worse-than-expected winter storm Avery as the snowfall stranded drivers, caused hundreds of accidents in New Jersey, closed bridges and dumped six inches of snow in Central Park on Thursday.

Avery, a wicked nor'easter pushing snow, sleet, freezing rain and plain rain across New Jersey and into New York City, is the first major storm of the season.

The National Weather Service upgraded its winter weather advisory to a more serious winter storm warning in seven counties in northern sections of New Jersey. Several inches of snow in the New York City and Tri-State area slowed -- and in some cases, halted, the evening commute.

In New York, reported winter storm warnings across Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties in New York, parts of northern New Jersey and Connecticut. Between 4-to-8 inches of snow are expected to fall – an increase from earlier forecasts – before the storm dissipates Friday morning.

Winter weather advisories are extended for New York City and Long Island, where the National Weather Service expects up to five inches of snow to fall. Most of the snow will fall inland, away from the coast.

As of 4:30 p.m., New Jersey State Police troopers responded to 441 vehicle crashes., reported. The state Department of Transportation imposed speed restrictions on the New Jersey Turnpike and as conditions worsened, the Port Authority urged drivers to avoid the George Washington Bridge, site of a multiple-vehicle crash that stranded drivers.

A video posted at shows fender collisions and side swipes between semi-trucks and cars on an icy, treacherous George Washington Bridge while the surrounding traffic was at a standstill this afternoon.

Up to eight inches of snow are expected in some New Jersey areas, including Monmouth County on the coast, according to the National Weather Service. The snow is expected to turn to rain later Thursday, then the storm will dissipate Friday morning.

"In short, that means many areas of New Jersey will be getting longer periods of snow, and snow mixed with sleet, before the frozen precipitation turns to plain rain," said Chad Shafer, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's regional forecast office in Mount Holly.

School closures in the New York City area are expected for Friday.