Just as rush hour began Wednesday afternoon, a narrow but intense wind-whipped band of snow descended on New York and the surrounding area, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a snow squall warning for the city. The warning was in effect until 5:30 p.m. and extended east over Long Island.

This is the second such warning ever issued for the New York area.

The Weather Service described a “dangerous snow squall” sweeping southeastward at 30 mph. It said the squall could generate “brief zero visibility in heavy snow and blowing snow” along with wind gusts up to 40 mph.

While the squall was only about 10 miles wide and likely to pass through any location in 30 minutes or less, it was predicted to put down a “quick ½ to 1 inch of snow accumulation,” the Weather Service said.


A radar image from 4:22 p.m. Wednesday shows the snow squall arriving in New York City. (RadarScope)

The Weather Service reported that 0.4 inch of snow fell as the squall swept through Central Park.

The snow squall warning was introduced by the Weather Service in just the past year. It was created because these squalls can generate “sudden whiteout conditions and slick roadways” that may “lead to high speed accidents with large pileups that result in injuries and fatalities,” the Weather Service wrote. “This new warning aims to bring better situational awareness to drivers and mitigate impacts related to these squalls.”

Snow squalls in the past have caused many deadly, multicar pileups.

Correction: This story initially stated that the snow squall warning was the first-ever for New York City. It was actually the second. The first was issued on Jan. 30 this year.

Videos and photos

Witness video from New York showed stunning views as the snow squall swallowed the city and its skyscrapers: