Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have declared states of emergency as Winter Storm Nemo begins dumping a massive three feet of snow across the North East Coast resulting in at least one death.
Thick snow is blanketing the north-eastern US as Nemo storm cuts power to thousands of homes and plays havoc with transport schedules.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and Maine are all on an emergency footing, with millions of residents being warned to stay indoors.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has temporarily banned all non-essential traffic on the state’s roads.
Meteorologists say the storm could be New England’s worst for decades.
Airlines cancelled more than 4,300 flights – including all those to and from the three major airports in New York City – and the train operator Amtrak has suspended nearly all services north of the city.
People have been warned to stay off the roads, and stock up on food and other supplies as the storm affects 25 million people in the region.
With the heaviest snow expected late on Friday and early on Saturday, blizzard warnings were in effect for much of the coastal section of the north-eastern US, from Newark to southern Maine.
Forecasters said the storm could dump as much as 3 feet (90 cm) of snow in some places as it hammered swathes of territory, with winds of up to 75 mph (120 km/h) expected to create deep drifts.
Parts of Massachusetts were already under a foot of snow by Friday night, with more expected over the weekend. Some 350,000 homes and businesses across the region were without electricity.
“This is a storm of major proportions,” warned Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
“Stay off the roads. Stay home.”
In New York City, which is expecting a 12 in dousing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said snow ploughs and 250,000 tonnes of salt were being put on standby.
Winter storm Nemo has also disrupted New York Fashion Week, which is held under a big tent. Organizers say they will bring in extra crews to help with snow removal and add an extra layer of tenting to the venue.
Some neighborhoods in the city are still recovering from Sandy, an October storm that brought record flooding. Many of those areas face a renewed risk of storm surge and flooding from the winter storm.
Fuel shortages were being reported from Connecticut to New York City as motorists queue at petrol stations to fill up vehicles, generators and snow blowers.
The National Weather Service had earlier said the combination of two weather systems from the polar and sub-tropical jet streams would produce a “potentially historic” storm.
Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine on Friday morning.
Further north, meanwhile, Ontario has already seen 200 vehicle accidents, the CBC reported. At least three people have been killed.