After enduring a brutal cold snap for several days, Yalies were greeted with 7 inches of snow Thursday, as a strong storm churned off the Eastern Seaboard.

The storm came to New Haven after crippling parts of the South with a severe ice storm earlier this week. Many students skipped classes for snowball fights or more time indoors as the snow snarled traffic and turned sidewalks into skating rinks. City schools closed early and some area businesses shortened their hours. By the time the snow stopped around 10 p.m., New Haven had received about 7 inches of snow and many students had had their first taste of winter boots and snowball fights of the year.

With finals beginning in 10 days, many students spent the day outdoors in the snow rather than studying. Davenport College students declared a “war” against rival Pierson College during dinner, launching snowballs at students in the Pierson dining hall. Students in Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges also faced off in their traditional snowball fight.

Many students did not attend their afternoon seminars because of the snow.

“I saw people outside making snow angels so i guess people were skipping classes for the snow,” Orijit Ghoshal ’06 said.

For some Yalies, Thursday’s snowfall was their first ever encounter with the white stuff.

Arizona native Charlotte Merrill ’06 marveled in the snow’s beauty while bemoaning its necessary counterpart — sub-freezing cold.

“It’s really gorgeous, but it’s absolutely freezing and I can’t wait to go back to the beach for Christmas,” Merrill said. “I might just have to skip a semester. If it gets any colder I’m going home.”

Snow began falling lightly at approximately 9 a.m., and a gentle light snow continued until 11:30, when half an inch coated the ground. Then, as the intensifying storm drew nearer to the shore, the northeasterly gales grew stronger and the snow began falling at a rapid clip. For the next five hours, horizontal snow, driven by wind gusts of up to 30 mph, accumulated at an average rate of an inch per hour.

Through the rest of the evening, light snow coated the freshly plowed streets and briefly pulsated to moderate intensity, a reminder of what had occurred on this December afternoon.

Thursday’s storm was a classic coast-hugger that lasted into the night. Snow fell throughout the region, with Washington, D.C., and New York tallying a half a foot, Philadelphia picking up 7 inches, and Hartford netting nearly 8 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

While a storm of this magnitude was not unheard of for this early in the cold season, it was an the exception to the rule. On Dec. 5 last year, it was in the 70s throughout the Northeast in what would go down as the warmest winter on record for many areas.

Snowfall this year is well above normal at both official National Weather Service stations in Bridgeport and Hartford. Bridgeport has already received a foot of snow this season and Thursday’s 6.5 inches nearly doubles the entire average snowfall for December.

–Brooke Fitzgerald contributed to this story

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”19584″ ]