The Northeastern United States braced on Friday morning for a possibly record-setting blizzard bearing down on the region, which forecasters warned could drop up to 2-1/2 feet (76 cm) of snow and bring travel to a halt.
Blizzard warnings were in effect from New Jersey through southern Maine, with Boston expected to bear the heaviest blow from the massive storm. The day was expected to begin with light snow, with winds picking up and snow getting much heavier by afternoon.
Officials urged residents to stay home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions.
Boston and many surrounding communities said their schools would be closed on Friday, and city and state officials told non essential city workers to stay home and urged businesses to allow workers to work from home or on shortened schedules.
"Accumulation is expected to be swift, heavy and dangerous," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told reporters. "I am ordering all non-essential state workers to work from home tomorrow. I am strongly urging private employers to take the same precautions."
Officials across the region echoed his recommendations, urging residents to prepare for possible power outages and consider checking on elderly or disabled neighbors who might need help.
New York City officials said they had 1,800 Sanitation Department trucks ready to respond to the storm.
The National Weather Service said Boston could get 18 to 24 inches or more of snow (45 to 60 cm) on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Winds could gust as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour(95 to 120 km per hour) as the day progresses.
If more than 18.2 inches (46.2 cm)of snow falls in Boston, it will rank among the city's 10 largest snowfalls. Boston's record snowfall, 27.6 inches (70.1 cm), came in 2003.
Cities from Hartford, Connecticut,to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot of snow.