A fast-moving cold front will plunge the U.S. Midwest into a deep freeze on Tuesday and dump up to a foot of snow on parts of the East Coast, forecasters said.
Nearly 2,200 flights in the United States had been cancelled by early Tuesday, according to Flight Aware, a tracking service.
It was at least the second time this month that an East Coast snow storm snarled air travel and interrupted thousands of flights. By some estimates, the first wave of cancellations earlier this month cost airlines and customers some $1.4 billion.
At northeastern airports from Washington to New York, more than a quarter of departing flights and more than a third of arriving flights were canceled Tuesday, FlightAware said.
(What are airline shares doing now? Click here)
Ironically, some had expected 2014 to be a stand-out year for airlines. Delta's strong earnings report Tuesday could foreshadow a good year for carriers, driven by low fuel costs and consolidation among the industry's biggest names, CNBC's Jim Cramer said.
"The country has been carved up," Cramer said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "The Justice Department has blessed it. This is a precursor to a series of great quarters."
In Washington, federal government offices were closed, the Office of Personnel Management said in an early morning email. There was no precipitation in the capital at the start of the morning rush hour.
The cold front will drop temperatures below freezing as far south as northern Florida. The high in and around Minnesota and the St. Lawrence Valley will not top zero Fahrenheit during Tuesday's daylight hours, forecaster AccuWeather said.
"Travel conditions will deteriorate with slippery roads and flight delays expected to unfold even in areas that avoid heavy snow," AccuWeather said.
The cold front across the eastern half of the country could drop up to 2 inches (5 cm) of snow from the Dakotas to the Ohio Valley. The snow will increase as the cold air picks up moisture near the Atlantic coast, AccuWeather said.
The mountains of Virginia and West Virginia will likely get up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow. Other sites near the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England coast could get 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) through late Tuesday.
For parts of the region, the snow could be the heaviest of the winter. Washington could see the most snow since January 2011, when about 5 inches fell, AccuWeather said.
Baltimore officials, expecting up to ten inches of snow in central and southern Maryland, on Tuesday issued a Code Blue alert for potentially dangerous conditions, according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.
Philadelphia was expecting five to 10 inches of snow, with wind chills in the Poconos mountains dipping down to an icy -4 Farenheit, according to local CBS News station KYW-TV.
The National Weather Service said the cold air would produce snow downwind from the Great Lakes.
The polar front will be something of a repeat of the cold snap that gripped much of the United States at the start of the year. Cold and snow snarled air and road travel, shattered temperature records and contributed to at least nine deaths.
In the middle of the cold front on Monday, Grand Marais, Minnesota, recorded -17F, the lowest temperature in the United States outside Alaska, the weather service said.
—CNBC.com contributed to this report