UPDATE 2-'Four'easter' storm in U.S. East brings snow day for kids, traffic nightmare for adults

nightmare for adults@ (Adds details on New York City snowfall, federal office closures in Washington, dateline; new byline)

NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - A storm bearing snow, sleet and winds rolled through the eastern United States on Wednesday, crippling public transit and closing schools in several cities, as people in the region endured the fourth major snowstorm this month.

The nor'easter was on track to dump 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) of snow on areas from Philadelphia to New York City on Wednesday, said Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Dan Petersen.

The storm also lashed points along the East Coast with winds of more than 50 miles (80 km) per hour, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The wintry blast on the second day of spring was dubbed "four'easter" by some media because it came after three previous storms this month. Those nor'easters left nine dead and more than 2 million homes and businesses without power.

New York's normally bustling Times Square was sedate, even though the brunt of the storm had yet to hit.

"We're not going to let the snow get in the way of our snow day," said Cheryl Mandelbaum, 30, an elementary school teacher who was taking pictures with a friend, another teacher who had the day off because the city had canceled school.

Several inches of snowfall in Washington and its suburbs forced the closure of federal government offices, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Washington schools were also closed, and children in Philadelphia, parts of New Jersey and Pittsburgh also enjoyed a snow day. In Boston, students were told to trudge to school.

Further inland, between 5 inches and 8 inches (13 cm to 20 cm) of snow blanketed parts of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Airlines scrapped more than 3,890 flights into and out of the United States, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, and nearly 1,000 other flights were delayed.

Jeremy McLellan, a standup comedian from Charleston, South Carolina, posted on Twitter that his flight was canceled and that he was stuck in New York City and would miss his wife's baby shower.

"(Snow: If you can read this ... thank you.)," McLellan wrote.

The storm was no laughing matter for millions of commuters, who faced dangerous roads.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday declared a state of emergency, as crews cleared roadways. Transit bus service was ordered suspended statewide, beginning on Wednesday afternoon.

Throughout the East Coast, many other buses and trains, including some Greyhound bus and Amtrak rail routes, that millions of people rely on to commute to and from work and school also canceled service on Wednesday.

Widespread power outages were expected as heavy snow and ice combined with gusty winds may topple trees and power lines.

Already, about 28,000 electricity customers were without power in Virginia and West Virginia.

Across the country in Southern California, residents of Santa Barbara County were bracing for heavy rains forecast to hit the region this week and potentially trigger mudslides.

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Scott DiSavino in New York, Bernadette Baum in Montclair, New Jersey, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Keith Coffman in Denver, and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing and additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, Editing by Jonathan Oatis)