The first flurries fell on Friday over New England in what was forecasted to be an intense snow storm with white-out conditions, fierce winds and significant travel snarl-ups over the next 24 hours.
The National Weather Service predicted "a major winter storm with blizzard conditions" along most of the region's coastline, including the New York area.
It was likely to be the biggest snowstorm to hit the densely populated corridor so far this winter, and came a little over three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the same area of New York City and New Jersey, killing 132 people and causing damage worth some $71.4 billion.
The National Weather Service said two systems would combine later on Friday, turning into a more powerful storm.
Snowfall of "one to two feet are possible with locally higher amounts. In addition to the heavy snowfall, wind gusts of up to hurricane force is possible, especially near the coast. This will result in blizzard conditions with drifting and blowing snow."
Overnight Friday travel "will be extremely hazardous, if not impossible," the National Weather Service warned.
The latest storm was expected to pound Boston particularly hard, and schools in the city were ordered closed.
The good news was that its peak was due as the weekend began, meaning far fewer people would be on the roads. Forecasters said the system should blow through on Saturday, with milder temperatures to follow.
The fallout however was already being felt in one of the busiest travel networks in the country.
Flightaware.com said 2,500 flights had been canceled. The rail service Amtrak said trains from New York northbound and also to the capital Washington, DC, would be suspended later on Friday.
Among the more glamorous victims of the travel upsets was designer Marc Jacobs, who had to reschedule his two shows at New York Fashion Week due to "the snow storm in the US and production problems."
There were still differing forecasts for how much snow would fall, with everything depending on how the two oncoming systems merged.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came under withering criticism for the city's flat-footed response to a blizzard in 2010, said residents should prepare for the worst.
"Due to potential power outages and transportation difficulties, New Yorkers are advised to stock up on potential supplies, including medicine," Bloomberg said.
Authorities in New York and neighboring New Jersey summoned extra personnel and readying snow removal equipment. They said they had deployed more than 200 pieces of snow and ice removal equipment in key area airports such as JFK International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International.
In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino ordered non-essential city employees to stay home and put into effect a parking ban.
"This is going to be a very serious storm," the mayor said in a statement.
People old enough to remember were already comparing the coming storm to the ferocious Blizzard of 1978, which killed 100 people, pummeling Boston with more than 27 inches (68 centimeters) of snow and Providence, Rhode Island with nearly 28 inches (71 centimeters).
During that storm, people were forced to abandon cars stuck on highways and made their way around Boston on cross country skis and snowshoes.