A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books began clobbering the New York-to-Boston corridor on Friday, grounding flights, closing workplaces and sending people rushing to get home ahead of a possible 1 to 3 feet of snow.
From New Jersey to Maine, shoppers crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, something that became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.
"This is a storm of major proportions. Stay off the roads. Stay home," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said.
New York state and Connecticut declared states of emergency, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts ordered nonessential state workers to stay home.
Motorists mindful of the severe fuel disruptions after Sandy rushed to buy gasoline for cars, snow blowers and generators, leading to shortages in New York City and Connecticut. Long lines were reported at many stations. (Read More: Storm Nemo Pushes Fuel Prices to 2013 Highs)
Following her 6 p.m. show at Lincoln Center, Designer Nicole Miller told CNBC that she had not taken any precautions but was not worried because the weather was forecast to worsen after her show time.
"I'm just wondering if Soul Cycle is going to be cancelled, and I was going to drive to Massachusetts, and now I'm not," Miller added.
Fashion Week attendees Drew and Lauren Zalkind originally planned to drive all the way from Boston but had to switch to traveling by train midday once the roads became dangerous. The couple came down for the latter's surprise 50th birthday celebration.
"We were worried that we weren't even going to make it and have to change all of our plans, and this is a special birthday for me…" she said. "We were running away from the weather this morning to get down here as fast as we could."
The storm mercifully arrived at the start of weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.
Before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other towns and cities in New England and upstate New York towns canceled school Friday,
Airlines scratched more than 4,700 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions from the blizzard certain to ripple across the U.S. At New York City's three main airports, most domestic carriers planned to cease operations by Friday evening, resuming after noon on Saturday, FlightAware.com said. At Boston's Logan and other New England airports, most airlines were to cease operations Friday afternoon, and would reopen Saturday afternoon.
(Read More: Thousands of Flights Canceled Amid Major Blizzard)
(Read More: Many Airlines Waive Change Fees as Major Storm Nears)
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.
Snow from the storm, which got its name from The Weather Channel, began falling Friday morning in some areas, with the heaviest amounts falling at night and into Saturday. (Read More: Finding a Storm Named Nemo)
Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine.
Wind gusts could reach 75 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October. (Read More: Are Power Companies Better Prepared This Time?)
Boston could get up to 3 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting up to 14 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 2 to 5 inches.
Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries.
In the southeast Massachusetts town of Whitman, where up to 30 inches of snow is forecast, public works crews were clearing crosswalk signs, trash barrels and anything else that might impede plows.
"We've had instances where they have predicted something big and it's petered out," said Dennis Smith, a DPW worker. "I don't think this is going to be one of those times."
Amtrak halted train service from New York City to the north Friday afternoon.
The organizers of New York's Fashion Week -- a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent -- said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue. Designer Michael Kors was forced to arrive at the Project Runway show on Friday in Uggs.
And organizers of the New York Toy Fair said they are going ahead with their plans this weekend. After 110 years, organizers said on their Facebook page, "a little snow won't stop us now."
Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York's Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Conn., and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.
In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston's record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003, forecasters said. The last major snowfall in southern New England was well over a year ago -- the Halloween storm of 2011.
Dunham said southern New England has seen less than half its normal snowfall this season, but "we're going to catch up in a heck of a hurry." He added: "Everybody's going to get plastered with snow."
At a Shaw's supermarket in Belmont, Mass., Susan Lichtenstein stocked up, with memories of a 1978 blizzard on her mind. "This is panic shopping, so bread, milk, a snow shovel in case our snow shovel breaks," she said.
Terrance Rodriguez, a doorman at a luxury apartment complex in Boston, took the forecast in stride.
"It's just another day in Boston. It's to be expected. We're in a town where it's going to snow," he said. "It's like doomsday prep. It doesn't need to be. People just take it to the extreme."