By Carla Zanoni, Paul Lomax and Patrick Hedlund
MANHATTAN — Fall ended abruptly Saturday as an early winter storm swept into the city, dumping snow and snapping tree branches throughout Manhattan while sending temperatures plummeting close to freezing.
AccuWeather forecasters warned that as much as one to two inches of snow might fall in Manhattan before the storm passes at about midnight.
At dusk, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the New York region.The move allows the governor to move resources throughout the state should the storm cause major damage.
Transportation agencies, including Metro-North, the MTA, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit prepared snow removal equipment for the evening snow fall.
Metro-North's Upper Harlem line was suspended Saturday afternoon between North White Plains to Wassaic "due to downed trees, power problems and a slippery rail," according to the agency. The New Haven line was running with 30 minute delays, because of signal problems. Riders are asked to call 511 for an updated status.
MTA subway lines were running with some delays, due to signal problems along the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, N, Q, and R. Information about the lines is available on the agency's website.
New Jersey Transit was running with 30 to 60 minute delays and the LIRR was running on schedule Saturday evening.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) warned Saturday of falling tree branches made heavy by snow accumulating on still green leaves.
A 69-year-old woman was taken to New York-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell Medical Center at 1:21 p.m. after being struck by a branch at Central Park West and East 61st Street, according to OEM and Parks Department officials.
A Parks spokesman said the woman was hit on the back by the branch and then tripped over another tree limb, injuring her head and knees. She was breathing and conscious when taken to the hospital, but her current condition is unknown, according to Parks.
In Fort Tryon Park and throughout the city, tree branches snapped and tumbled to the ground under the weight of the snow.
The Inwood-based blog ThePete.com showed a felled tree limb moments after it tumbled onto the sidewalk outside a residential building.
Joseph Sequeira, 4, threw snowballs with his grandfather, John Pinkerton, 65, in the park until Parks officials asked the pair to leave due to the falling limbs.
"The public is urged to be aware of the potential for falling tree limbs and to exercise caution during the storm," Parks spokesman Phil Abramson said.
Park playgrounds were locked during the afternoon to avoid accidents, according to the department.
Outside the park, mother and daughter Flavia Kallusky, 38, and Nora Kallusky, 3, marveled at the winter-like scene.
"I honestly thought it was just going to be like Hurricane Irene, just a couple of drops, but this is incredible," Flavia said, voicing concern at the falling branches. "I thought all the branches had been cut down, I didn’t realize it was because of the snow."
After balmy 50 and 60 degree days this fall, Manhattanites were in shock as the white stuff started to come down mid-morning.
By lunchtime, roads were slick and the city's parks became a winter wonderland — before Halloween had even arrived.
A drift of tweets about the unseasonable and dangerous weather came down on Twitter as Manhattan residents from downtown to Inwood watched the weather in awe.
"Tree limbs breaking left and right. This is some heavy snow. If I go out, I'll be wearing my hardhat," wrote Jenny Penny in Upper Manhattan.
"Snowing giant flakes over green leaves in #Inwood. This is the view out my window. Crazy!," tweeted uptown resident Nathan Winstead.
"Snow in the East Village!," tweeted Gala Darling.
Saturday's snow was accompanied by winds of up to 28 miles per hour, with a low of 33 expected Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
OEM issued a hazardous travel advisory Saturday for the conditions, which include up to three to six inches of wet snow throughout the city, as well as wind gusts of up to 30-40 miles per hour.
OEM's travel warning, which stays in effect for Saturday afternoon and evening, advised motorists to drive slowly and use major highways and thoroughfares, and for pedestrians to bundle up with extra layers and avoid slippery surfaces, especially at roadway intersections.
Sunday will see sunny skies and a high near 47 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
On Friday afternoon, New Yorkers reacted with indifference to the forecast as the sun still shone.
"My boss told me this morning," said Jose Alvarado, 31, an employee at the Open Pantry grocery store in the East Village, adding that he was prepared to shovel and still had salt left over from last winter.
"It'll just be a little rain. It's too early for snow."
Upper West Sider Bobby Lyle, 36, said he saw flurries in New Jersey Thursday, and didn't like the idea of the white stuff coming so soon.
"I'd like to have a fall and be able to enjoy it. It was cold as hell this morning," he said.
But he didn't expect the snow to have much of an impact.
"It'll probably be some flurries, and it won't even stick," he added.
The early-winter snow is part of a larger storm sweeping across the Northeast, bringing the possibility of heavy snowfall stretching from West Virginia up to southern New England.