Rain changed to snow in North and Central New Jersey Wednesday, making holiday travel a challenge.

An electronic sign along I-195 warns of the winter weather (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

As Townsquare Meteorologist Dan Zarrow predicted, the transition from rain brought a moderate-to-heavy snowfall with gusty winds that reduced visibility in parts of the state.

Gov. Christie declared a state of emergency to allow the State Director of Emergency Management to co-ordinate a response to the storm.

“I’ve authorized state officials to take all necessary action to prepare, and my Administration will continue monitoring conditions throughout the remainder of the storm," wrote Christie in a statement. "With higher than normal traffic volume due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I strongly encourage all New Jerseyans to drive carefully so that they and their families arrive safely at their destinations. “

Speed on the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway between #98 (I-195) in Wall and the New York State line has been reduced to 45 MPH.

A Winter Storm Warning has been posted by the National Weather Service for Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, Northern Bergen, Western Essex,  Somerset, and Hunterdon counties while a Winter Weather Advisory has been posted for Southern Bergen, Eastern Essex, Union, Middlesex, and Mercer counties.

Monmouth and Ocean counties, as well as south Jersey, will continue to see mostly rain through the morning with a quick change to snow late Wednesday afternoon.

The expected snow totals by Wednesday night:

  • 8 inches or more in far North Jersey (Sussex/Warren counties.)
  • 4 to 8 inches along and north of I-78 (North Jersey)
  • 1 to 4 inches of snow along I-195. (Middlesex/Mercer counties.)
  • A coating to an inch of accumulation along the shore (Monmouth/Ocean counties) and south Jersey.

Many schools in north Jersey cancelled classes in anticipation of snow in the afternoon.

Newark-Liberty International and other northeast airports have had several hundred flights cancelled in anticipation of the snow,  according to FlightAware.com. Especially impacted are regional carriers operating "express" flights for major airlines, JetBlue and the Delta Shuttle between Boston and LaGuardia.

"This is not a huge number of cancellations," explains Daniel Baker of FlightAware.com, "but due to the holiday, flights will be more full and there will be fewer available seats to accommodate displaced passengers from cancelled flights." Major airlines dropped their ticket-change fees for people flying in and out of the Northeast, allowing passengers to try to sneak on an earlier flight, though that appeared to be a challenging proposition since most planes were filled.

NJ Transit executive director Veronique Haim says the system is cross honoring tickets today across trains, light rail and buses. They're also offering "early getaway" service from New York, Newark and Hoboken Terminal starting Wednesday afternoon.

Snowfall will end by Thanksgiving, says Zarrow. Thursday and Friday will be cold with highs only in the lower 40s.

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Toniann Antonelli and the Associated Press contributed to this report


Expected snow accumulation map for Wednesday's storm (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media NJ)