Snow piled up rapidly in parts of the northeastern United States on Tuesday as a blizzard began blowing in, with residents being advised to stay at home, airlines grounding flights and schools canceling classes.
The National Weather Service (NWS) warned some 50 million people from Pennsylvania to Maine of a "rapidly intensifying nor'easter" that was unusual for so late in the winter. Some could expect to find themselve surrounded by up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow by early Wednesday, the federal agency predicted.
Governors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia declared states of emergency.
New York City was expected to escape the worst of it after the NWS withdrew its blizzard warning for the city on Tuesday morning, replacing it with a mere "winter weather advisory." The service sharply reduced its snowfall forecast for the city to between 4 and 8 inches (10 and 20 cm).
Still, city life already was disrupted with many New Yorkers already planning to stay home with hard-won groceries picked up from crowded stores the night before.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended above-ground portions of the city's subway service and said the Metro-North commuter service to the suburbs would shut down at noon. Transit officials warned that more bus and train routes might be suspended throughout the day.
"Normally, with the geography of New York, we normally have it on the east side or the west side. But this is statewide," Cuomo told MSNBC in an interview.
"Weve been through this a number of times so were prepared for it. Airports are basically closed ... Government is basically closed, schools are basically closed, so theres no real reason to be on the roads and we made that clear yesterday."
Some 2,000 members of the National Guard and 5,000 plows were deployed across the state, Cuomo said.