NEW YORK (AP)- Cities big and small along the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor of more than 35 million people began shutting down and bundling up Tuesday against a powerful and potentially historic storm that could unload 1 to 3 feet of snow.
More than 5,000 flights were canceled, schools and businesses planned to close early, and cities mobilized snowplows and salt spreaders, getting ready for a dangerously windy blast that could instantly make up for what has been a largely snow-free winter in the urban Northeast.
Snow was already falling during the morning commute in several cities, including Philadelphia and New York, with Boston up next in the afternoon. Forecasters said the brunt of the storm would hit Monday evening and into Tuesday.
Boston is expected to get 2 to 3 feet, New York 1½ to 2 feet, and Philadelphia a foot or so. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.
In Hartford, Connecticut, Frank Kurzatkowski filled several five-gallon buckets of water at his home in case the power went out and his well pump failed.
"I've got gas cans filled for my snowblowers," he said. "I have four-wheel-drive."
Supermarkets and hardware stores did a brisk trade as light snow fell in New Jersey.
Nicole Coelho, 29, a nanny from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was preparing to pick up her charges early from school and stocking up on macaroni and cheese, frozen pizzas and milk at a supermarket. She also was ready in case of a power outage.
"I'm going to make sure to charge up my cellphone, and I have a good book I haven't gotten around to reading yet," she said.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered a travel ban on Connecticut highways, while officials in other states asked residents to avoid any unnecessary travel. About half of all flights out of New York's LaGuardia Airport were called off Monday, and about 60 percent of flights heading into the airport were scratched.
Boston's Logan Airport said there would be no flights after 7 p.m. Monday, and the shutdown could last until late Wednesday.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker warned residents to prepare for roads that are "very hard, if not impossible, to navigate," power outages and possibly a lack of public transportation. Wind gusts of 75 mph or more were possible for coastal areas of Massachusetts, and up to 50 mph farther inland, forecasters said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged commuters to stay home on Monday and warned that mass transit and roads could be closed before the evening rush hour, even major highways such as the New York Thruway and the Long Island Expressway.
The Nassau University Medical Center on Long Island increased staff and outfitted vehicles with snow gear. Hospital officials said they expect a large influx of patients as doctors' offices and clinics close because of the weather.
A tractor-trailer jackknifed, and a beer truck crashed into the median on Interstate 81 near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the morning commute. No injuries were reported.
Some schools were planning to close early or not open at all Monday in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
The Washington area expected only a couple of inches of snow.
The Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots expected to be out of town by the time the storm arrived in Boston. The team planned to leave Logan Airport at 12:30 p.m. Monday for Phoenix, where the temperature will reach the high 60s.