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Storm spells 'atrocious' commute

Millions of Americans faced a rough morning commute Wednesday as forecasters warned up to two inches of snow would be falling by dawn in some areas.

A huge band of the country was under a winter storm warning by 4 a.m. ET—stretching from central Illinois to northern New York and Maine. Parts of New England could get as much as two feet of snow by late Thursday, The Weather Channel said.

The morning commute was expected to be trickiest in Detroit, Mich., and Cleveland, Ohio, where as much as eight inches of snow was expected on Wednesday. The storm was due to reach New England by the afternoon.

(Read more: Tiny tropical state joins the extreme weather club)

"I'll be very frank about this: Conditions will be atrocious for the Wednesday morning rush hour," said Paul Gross, meteorologist and executive producer of weather at NBC station WDIV.

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The south side of Chicago was already getting snow by 3 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) but the city was expected to only get three-to-five inches, The Weather Channel lead meteorologist Kevin Roth said.

"It's going to be pretty hard going for people trying to get to work, especially in the side streets that haven't been treated," he said. "Detroit has had a heavy season so I don't know how much salt they have left."

(Read more: Wal-Mart says sales 'very good' since weather improved)

The storm came from the Rockies and had already dumped 18 inches of snow in parts of Montana on Monday, and 8 inches across the Dakotas on Tuesday.

By Alexander Smith of NBC News

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