Snowstorm Hercules hammered the northeastern United States yesterday, causing flight delays, paralysing road travel and closing schools and government offices.
Travel chaos spread across the region. US airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights nationwide ahead of the storm and hundreds more flights were expected to be cancelled or delayed yesterday, especially at New York and Boston airports.
The storm brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with nearly 60cm of snow falling in some areas of Massachusetts.
Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay in their homes. Hundreds of schools were shut down in Boston and New York, extending the Christmas break for tens of thousands of students.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered state offices to remain closed today, warning that temperatures outside were "very, very dangerous".
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: "People should definitely consider staying in their homes if the storm continues as we expect.
"This is nothing to be trifled with. We have learned too well over the past few years the power of Mother Nature. We have seen the damage that has been done."
Watch: Snowstorm bears down on northeastern United States
The storm - named Hercules by the US Weather Channel - will serve as a first test for New York city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who assumed his post on Wednesday. He said the city had "laser" focus as it braced for what was to come. "We are ready," he said.
A city worker in Philadelphia was killed after a machine he was using was crushed by a mound of de-icing rock salt, NBC News reported.
In Chicago, a man was in a critical condition after being pulled out of an icy Lake Michigan by firefighters.
The snow will be followed by a blast of frigid air that will drive temperatures down, said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist in Massachusetts.
Forecasters said temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing and wind chill readings could hit minus 23 degrees Celsius.
Some major highways in New York state were shut down overnight and Metro-North trains around New York city were operating on a reduced schedule.
"It's been a tough road," said traveller Heather Krochuk, of Toronto, Canada, inside a Boston hotel on Thursday night after her flight was cancelled. "(But) we have a place to sleep that isn't the airport."
New York's three major airports prepared hundreds of camp beds to accommodate stranded travellers.
"We have a few hundred cots at each of the airports should you decide to become an overnight guest," said Thomas Bosco, an official with the Port Authority of New York and Jersey, at New York's LaGuardia Airport. The authority also runs the Newark and John F. Kennedy airports.
Boston's Logan International Airport said up to a quarter of its scheduled flights had been cancelled on Thursday.
Ruben Raskin of San Jose, California, who was in the Boston area visiting his girlfriend, worried that his flight yesterday out of Logan could be delayed or cancelled.
"It kind of reminds me why I moved to San Jose after going to college out here," said Raskin, 23.
Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg