The National Weather Service said the storm could bring 10 to 14 inches of snow to Philadelphia and southern New England and up to a foot in New York City, to be followed by bitter cold. An arctic air mass will plunge the eastern half of the United States into a deep freeze, with wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero, the weather service said.
It warned of heavy winds and hazardous driving conditions as the storm moved up the East Coast.
With federal workers told to stay home on Tuesday, Tom Ripley, who works at a Washington hardware store, said his morning commute was cut in half because "there was almost no one on the road."
He said the store was jammed Monday as customers stocked up on ice melt and shovels.
"Nobody prepares because we never get any snow, so the slightest chance of it, everybody freaks out," Ripley said.
Nearly 2,200 flights were canceled and thousands more delayed Tuesday, with airports from Washington to Boston affected, according to flight-tracking site Flightaware.com. An additional 450 flights for Wednesday were already canceled.
Schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky stayed closed for an extra day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, or planned to send students home early. Some parents kept their kids home even if their schools were open, unwilling to put them on slippery roads.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was forced to modify his schedule of inaugural events -- canceling an evening party on Ellis Island -- because there was fear snow would make travel dangerous. Both chambers of Delaware's General Assembly canceled sessions as the storm approached.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reduced speeds on interstates and other major roads, and said it had already blown through more than half of its $189 million winter weather budget.
"Lots of nuisance storms this season have meant that PennDOT crews have been plowing and treating roads more frequently this winter," agency spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said.
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