New York: Thousands of flights were canceled Monday as millions of Americans braced for a northeastern winter storm that New York`s mayor warned could be one of the biggest blizzards in history.
Snow, which began falling early Monday across the region, is expected to accumulate steadily throughout the day before turning into a major storm expected to paralyze parts of New York and New England.
Officials in states along the US East Coast have urged residents to stay home as they prepare for Winter Storm Juno, which could become up to three feet (about a meter) of snow in some areas.
The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings from New Jersey to the Canadian border, including New York and Boston. Coastal flood warnings are also in effect.
More than 5,100 flights have been cancelled within, to or from the United States on Monday and Tuesday, according to flightaware.com.
Some airlines have waved change fees as major delays and widespread cancelations were anticipated.
"We are facing most likely one of the largest snow storms in the history of this city," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
"My message to all New Yorkers is to prepare for something worse than we have seen before.""Take every precaution, now is the time to get ready for this extreme weather," de Blasio said. "Don`t underestimate the storm."
Meteorologists said the storm would bring crippling blizzard conditions and warned that travelling in the affected areas late Monday and Tuesday would be highly dangerous.
Power outages and falling trees are likely during the storm and in its aftermath, meteorologists warned, saying 28 million people were in the possible blizzard zone.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy issued a travel ban for the entire state beginning at 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Tuesday).
"It is imperative that you have a plan in place to get home safely this evening before the heavy snow begins and remain there through the duration of the storm," Malloy told a news conference.
The heaviest snow is likely to be in New England. Thunder and lightning could also accompany the heavy snow, meteorologists said.
Gusts of wind are forecast to reach up to 55 miles (about 90 kilometers) per hour and more than 70 mph in eastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and Martha`s Vineyard.
Coastal flooding is also a risk in the early hours of Tuesday.
President Barack Obama, on a visit to India, has been briefed about emergency preparations for the storm.
"White House officials have been in touch with state and local officials up and down the eastern seaboard to ensure that they have the resources necessary to prepare for and immediately respond to the storm," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.Residents scrambled to stock up on storm staples such as groceries, shovels, road salt and ice scrapers.
"I urge New Yorkers to take all necessary precautions and make preparations for the possibility that commutes will be disrupted on Monday and Tuesday," said the state`s governor, Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo urged people to work from home on Monday or leave work early to avoid disruptions from road and public transit closures.
The New York-area Port Authority said it had mobilized dozens of snow movers at airports, bridges and tunnels and thousands of tons of salt.
The National Weather Service said up to three feet of snow could fall from the New York area into coastal New England, with whiteout conditions possible.
"Many roads may become impassable. Strong winds may down power lines and tree limbs," it warned.
"All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon."