An unseasonable winter storm bore down on the region Wednesday, scuttling scores of airline flights and snarling traffic on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

During the afternoon hours, when many Thanksgiving travelers might normally climb into their cars, snow had started to blanket the northern and western suburbs, with as much as eight inches forecast for the hardest-hit areas.

Police reported scores of minor car accidents. Gov. Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, and by 6:30 p.m., 169 flights had been canceled and hundreds more delayed at Philadelphia International Airport.

"Everything is slowed up," airport spokeswoman Mary Flannery said, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration imposed delays on incoming flights because of low-hanging clouds. "The whole East Coast is a big problem."

She noted that the Eagles charter flight did take off and was en route to Dallas for the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys.

Stacy Kluesner, 37, and her son Darren, 7, drove to the airport from Milford, N.J., to catch a plane to Texas after their initial flight out of Allentown was canceled. "When we left," Kluesner said, "I had to have the truck in four-wheel drive."

Still, many were unfazed by the weather.

Jerry Larkin, 63, drove with his wife from Chicago to pick up their son, a sophomore at Villanova University.

"We decided to make this trip because airfares were already too expensive," Larkin said as flakes fell during a break at the Valley Forge rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. "We knew there would be some risks, but we wanted to see our son. So we left Chicago a little earlier."

Maida and Angel Ortiz said they had to drive through the snow from Lancaster to the Bronx to spend their first Thanksgiving in 20 years with some of their siblings.

"If it wasn't because of that," Maida Ortiz said, "believe me, I would have turned around."

As the snow began falling in the late morning, Montgomery and Bucks Counties reported a surge of car accidents on local roads, including an accident involving a car and a snow plow near Newtown. None involved serious injuries, officials said, and there had been no prolonged road closures.

The accumulations varied. By late afternoon, Elverson, Chester County, reported 4.9 inches of snow, while Wayne, Delaware County, had logged 3.3 inches. The highest total in Bucks County was 3.8 inches in Quakertown. Gilbertsville topped Montgomery County with 3.2 inches.

"There's one more band of snow that's moving through Southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware," National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick O'Hara said Wednesday evening.

Some schools dismissed students earlier than scheduled, including the North Penn and Hatboro-Horsham districts in Montgomery County. Community colleges in Bucks and Montgomery Counties also closed.

In Philadelphia, the greatest concern wasn't snow - little was expected to accumulate - but preventing icy patches overnight, and ensuring that the Thanksgiving Day parade route remained clear by morning, said Streets Commissioner David Perri.

Perri said crews were salting Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, and Somerton, where snow was sticking, but were prepared to salt more roads overnight as temperatures were forecast to dip just above freezing.

"Given what we went through last winter," Perri said, "this is nothing but a dry run for us."

Temperatures were expected to hover in the 30s and low 40s on Thursday, but the day, thankfully, was likely to remain dry.

610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Michaelle Bond, Robert Moran, Chris Palmer, and Jessica Parks.