PHILADELPHIA — Thousands of flights were canceled, students got an extra day off from school or were being sent home early, and the federal government closed its offices in the Washington area Tuesday as a winter storm bore down on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The National Weather Service said the storm could bring 8 to 12 inches of snow to Philadelphia and New York City, and more than a foot in Boston. Bitterly cold air with wind chills as low as 10 degrees below zero was forecast.
It warned of heavy winds and hazardous driving conditions as the storm moved up the East Coast.
With federal workers told to stay home, Tom Ripley, who works at a Washington hardware store, said his morning commute was cut in half because "there was almost no one on the road."
He said the store was jammed Monday as customers stocked up on ice melt and shovels.
"Nobody prepares because we never get any snow, so the slightest chance of it, everybody freaks out," Ripley said.
Nearly 2,200 flights were canceled and thousands more delayed Tuesday, with airports from Washington to Boston affected, according to flight-tracking site Flightaware.com. An additional 450 flights for Wednesday were already canceled.
Schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky stayed closed for an extra day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, or planned to send students home early. Some parents kept their kids home even if their schools were open, unwilling to put them on slippery roads.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was forced to modify his schedule of inaugural events — canceling an evening party on Ellis Island — because there was fear snow would make travel dangerous. Both chambers of Delaware's General Assembly canceled sessions as the storm approached. Pennsylvania authorities reduced speeds on interstates and other major roads.
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.