Snow has begun to fall as a massive blizzard approaches the north-east of the US, sending residents hurrying to stock up on supplies ahead of a storm poised to dump up to 3ft of snow from New York to Boston and beyond.
Airlines cancelled more than 4,200 flights through to Saturday and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick banned all traffic from roads after 4pm (9pm GMT), believed to be the state's first such ban since the blizzard of 1978.
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving."
The heaviest snowfall was expected on Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 75mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.
Boston could get nearly a metre of snow, while New York City was expecting up to 12 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said ploughs and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby.
Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pile-up in Maine. In Brick Township, New Jersey, which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas that are still recovering from that storm.
Amtrak rail stopped its north east trains on Friday afternoon. The organisers of New York's Fashion Week - a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent - said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.
Airlines have cancelled more than 4,200 flights in preparation for the storm, according to airline tracking website FlightAware. New York City's three main airports and Boston's Logan started shutting down on Friday afternoon.
Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York's Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.
In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston's record of 27.6 inches set in 2003, the National Weather Service said. The last major snowfall in southern New England was well over a year ago - the Halloween storm of 2011. Mr Dunham said southern New England has seen less than half its normal snowfall this season, but "we're going to catch up in a heck of a hurry". He added: "Everybody's going to get plastered with snow." Some petrol stations ran out of fuel during the rush to prepare for the storm. Long queues were reported at many stations.