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'Very Rough Commute' Looms as Snow Blankets Much of Northeast

A brutal winter blast that slugged the South is bearing down on the Northeast — already dropping more than 8 inches of snow in Washington and Philadelphia with fierce winds gusting more than 30 miles per hour.

This "meteorological bomb" of snow and rain swept northward overnight Wednesday, putting more than 150 million people along the Interstate 95 corridor in its crosshairs. Snow continued to fall at a quickening clip of 1 to 2 inches per hour on Thursday morning, The Weather Channel reported.

"The rate of snowfall will be hard to deal with," said Kevin Roth, a forecaster with The Weather Channel.

(Read more: Chart of the Day: Buried deep in snow)

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Areas outside of D.C. and Baltimore were slammed with at least a foot of snow overnight.

The storm hit Philadelphia at midnight, dumping more than 8 inches by Thursday morning, while New York City had two inches by 7 a.m. The city is expected to be hit with around 8 inches before the end of the day, with more than a foot predicted in parts of the tri-state area, the National Weather Service said.

Visibility also will be hindered by 20 mph winds gusting up to 35 mph.

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The Boston area is expected to see anywhere from 2 inches to more than 6 inches of snow.

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Tom Niziol, The Weather Channel's winter weather expert, warned that while East Coast cities will see the snow turn into rain by the afternoon, the tail end of the storm will bring another blast of snow.

He added that Thursday's high will be more than 30 degrees along the coast, which means it will be too warm to see a repeat of the same vicious ice storm that plagued the South on Wednesday.

But the snow will be a major headache for travelers in the Northeast, already battered by a messy winter season, Roth said.

Communities "may have enough plows to deal with normal storms but with two inches an hour … the snow just builds back up," he added. "This will affect any roadways or airport runways in the region."

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There were already more than 4,700 flight cancelations across the U.S. as of 8 a.m. ET Thursday and more than 440 delays, according to FlightAware.com.

Government offices and schools in D.C. and Connecticut were shuttered Thursday. Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, where dozens of school districts also canceled classes.

Public schools in New York City, however, remained open Thursday.

"Because of its timing and intensity, this storm is going to make both the morning and evening rush hours extremely difficult," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday night.

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Thousands of kids are being kept home in Philadelphia where flooding may also be a concern should heavy rainfall mix with snow already on the ground. This, combined with strong winds could also lead to power outages, NBC Philadelphia reported.

Heavy winds sweeping up the coast could also affect parts of Boston, WDHD reported.

Meanwhile, more than half a million people in the Southeast woke up to a cold and dark Thursday after the second ice storm in as many weeks caused widespread power outages.

—By Henry Austin and Alexander Smith of NBC News. Erik Ortiz contributed to this report.

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