New Jersey’s Biggest Christmas Snowstorm Ever Turned the State Into a Winter Wonderland

Night snowfall in a New Jersey village
© Ultima_Gaina/iStock via Getty Images

Written by William Mullane

Published: December 16, 2023

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Nothing quite captures the Christmas spirit better than snow falling over the lights and decorations around the neighborhood. Even those living in more tropical climates must admit that snow and Christmas are nearly synonymous — going together like milk and cookies. Of course, snow on Christmas is less far-fetched for New Jerseyans than those in Miami Beach. Still, for all the hoopla surrounding a truly white Christmas, snowfall on the holiday itself is less common than you may think. Nevertheless, New Jersey’s biggest Christmas snowstorm ever turned the state into a winter wonderland, and the sights were astonishing!

When Was New Jersey’s Biggest Christmas Snowstorm?

Night snowfall in a New Jersey village

Night snowfall blankets a small New Jersey village.

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As mentioned above, blankets of the white stuff on December 25th are not always typical. We must look at the entire Christmas week to answer this question. However, The Great Blizzard of 1947 started on Christmas Day and swept across the Northeastern United States, including New Jersey. While the storm did not bring heavy winds, snow fell across the region at such a steady pace it would soon turn the state into a complete winter wonderland. Snow fell at a rate of three inches per hour at its highest point. Drifts came in at around four feet in several areas.

Between December 26 and 27 of 1947, 29.7 inches of snow fell in 24 hours. That’s nearly two and a half feet of solid snowfall, and it remains the most snow to ever accumulate in just one day in New Jersey’s history! The storm brought snow drifts as high as ten feet outside of the state, as most high piles around New Jersey resulted from removal efforts. The glistening snow blanketed everything in sight, leaving thousands of automobiles stranded on the streets and highways.

While the incredible storm came unexpectedly and caused major disruptions around New Jersey, including widespread power outages and crippled rail lines, the sight was picturesque serenity. Families were initially disappointed by cancellations of plans but soon embraced what would become one of the most memorable Christmases in New Jersey history! Unfortunately, the immense blizzard was also the cause of much tragedy.

The Dark Side of the Storm 

Winter Storm Warning Sign With Snowfall and Stormy Background

A winter storm warning sign is barely visible in high winds.

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Alongside the crippled rail lines and stranded vehicles statewide, The Great Blizzard of 1947 also tragically claimed the lives of 31 people across the state. People passed away from incidents such as collapsing while attempting to push their vehicles through the heavy snow-filled streets. However, as with most examples of genuine humanity, tragedy often coexists with heroism. And New Jersey’s biggest Christmas snowstorm certainly brought many examples of that.

In one story, a Hackensack police officer was tasked with rushing a pregnant woman to the hospital. While travel was arduous, the heroic officer was able to get the woman to Englewood Hospital only minutes before she went into labor! Another incident saw a four-year-old boy fall from a window while watching his mother shovel snow. The child suffered severe cuts as a result and required hospitalization. Two officers took turns carrying the child on their backs for more than a mile, trudging through the snow the entire way. Thankfully, they made it to Holy Name Hospital, and the boy survived!

Has it Ever Snowed on Christmas Day in New Jersey?

Merry Christmas - Baubles On Snow With Fir Branches

Christmas tree ornaments rest in the snow.

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Although New Jersey’s biggest Christmas snowstorm occurred in the early morning on the day after Christmas, snow has fallen on the holiday itself. However, snow on Christmas Day in New Jersey has been relatively uncommon. The last time New Jerseyans saw snowfall on Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day was in 2008. Concerning Christmas Eve, the last time was in 2009, as the day started with six inches of snow already blanketing the Golden State.

Regarding the last time New Jersey saw snowfall on Christmas Day, you have to go back a decade. While it wasn’t much, the state received 0.1 to 0.2 inches of snow on Christmas Day in 2013. One year earlier, approximately one inch of the white stuff fell across the state on Christmas Day. Potential good news has several outlets forecasting a cold, snowy Christmas in New Jersey this year. However, it’s a little early to say for sure. Still, buy your cocoa now and get ready to cheer a cozy, white Christmas!

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About the Author

William Mullane is a freelance writer with experience that stretches the boundaries of the typical wordsmith. A native of the Buffalo, NY area, William mostly grew up on a farm in rural Western New York. His early life resulted in a deep love for animals and an appreciation for hard work. William spent over two decades as a musician and hardscape specialist before earning a BA in creative writing. He worked as a writer and editor for several years and currently writes for Flywheel Publishing. William spends his days as a father first, writer second, and die-hard Bills fan all year round!

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