SYRACUSE, NY—In a rare instance of icy-cold January weather, much of the Northeast awoke Tuesday morning to find itself buried under nearly 1.5 inches of snowfall.

"This is really bizarre," said Syracuse resident Mary Baloh, who noted that her garden was doing very well until the unexpected weather struck. "I've seen some freak weather in my lifetime, but this definitely tops them all."

"It's like Christmas in January," Baloh added.

According to the National Weather Service, the temperature, which plummeted to an unseasonably cold 31 degrees, is supposed to linger at the freezing mark over the next several days. The inclement conditions have forced school cancellations, shut down federal and state office buildings, closed municipal pools, and put a damper on common seasonal activities such as barbecues and beach volleyball games.

A family of accidental snow bunnies trade in their swim trunks for sleds in Burlington, VT.

Still, a few adventuresome individuals ventured outside to frolic in the strangely still, white scene, donning cross-country skis, thick boots, and other accessories more appropriate for Alpine climes than the northeastern United States.

"Look, you can almost make a snowball," said 17-year-old Theo Baldesseri in Pittsburgh's Riverview Park. "My older cousin told me about stuff like this happening when he was a kid, but I always thought he was just making it up."

The weather is being blamed for hundreds of accidents throughout the tri-state region of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Near Paramus, NJ, nearly two dozen vehicles were involved in a pile-up caused by a dusting of snow on the Garden State Parkway. Even in normally balmy Stowe, VT, the annual Fun In The Sun 10K Run Against Muscular Dystrophy had to be canceled.

"I had my whole weekend planned—I was going to go play my usual nine holes at the club, catch some rays, and take a dip in the river," said Bangor, ME resident Richard Horner, who had to retrieve his sweater from his attic. "I moved up here to get away from this kind of weather."

Authorities are recommending that citizens of the Northeast stay indoors until streets are cleared and conditions begin to normalize. Massachusetts Highway Patrol spokesman Chris Jarvis said that the snowfall caught road crews completely off-guard.

"When you have unexpected flurries like this, the most important thing is to stay warm, dry, and safe," Jarvis said. "It's going to take a while to get all the snowplows and salt on the road because everything's in storage."

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, snow clouds had cleared and the skies were sunny. However, the dangerous conditions had not lessened; Philadelphia reported a low of 30 degrees, with a brisk wind chill of 27.

The well-below-average temperatures will undoubtedly have an adverse financial impact on regional businesses such as miniature golf courses, batting cages, go-cart tracks, and ice-cream parlors.

"I haven't had to close the drive-in in January for many years," said Harold Fitch, owner of Fitch's Park & Watch Theater in Warwick, RI. "Each week is a fight to stay in the black anyhow, and to take a hit like this during the busy season could shut us down permanently."

"Global warming?" Brewster, MA water-ski instructor Brock Gilpin said. "Sure doesn't feel like it to me."

According to Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, the nippy weather should not be a cause for concern among residents of the Northeast.

"Spring temperatures are still expected to reach into the upper 140s," Abrams said.