AT-A-GLANCE

NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – There was gridlock in the suburbs as heavy snow dropped a hammer during the evening commute for thousands, but it also cost one person in New Jersey her life.

Debris was still at the crash site next to the train tracks along Union and Rose Avenues Friday in New Providence.

Police say the gridlock on local roads may have contributed to Suzanne Brown’s death. As warning lights flashed, authorities report that the red and white arms came down on the 61-year-old’s car.

Brown was then hit by an NJ TRANSIT train at the grade level crossing, only a half mile away from her home.

Brown’s neighbor says she lived alone with her two dogs.

“Very friendly. Just a nice, nice girl and I think she worked in a medical facility, it’s a terrible tragedy,” the neighbor told CBS2’s Meg Baker.

CBS2 also spoke to Brown’s mother on the phone who says she just wants to know what went wrong.

Lt. Daniel Henn of the New Providence Police Department said he’s never seen a worse traffic nightmare in his 18 years of service.

“It was very, very difficult to traverse the area,” Henn said about Thursday’s underestimated storm.

Thousands of lives were disrupted. Families were separated for hours. Officials in the state blame an unpredictable storm for the lack of preparation.

“Yesterday, New Jersey and the region got an early taste of winter with our first storm. It came stronger and harder than anyone had forecasted,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

New Jersey DOT commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti was one of the few government officials in the Tri-state to actually apologize for the lack of preparation.

“It’s never the DOT’s intention to impact our commuters, our residents in that way. Clearly I am accountable for our performance.”

Many cars were left vacant on the side of the road. Police say many ran out of gas or patience and all were pushed to their limit.

The cause of Brown’s accident is still being investigated. NJ TRANSIT says there were 100 passengers on the train at the time of the crash. No injuries were reported to passengers or crew.