PHOTOS: Snowstorm hits NYC, Boston; cancels flights nationwide - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

PHOTOS: Snowstorm hits NYC, Boston; cancels flights nationwide

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books began clobbering the New York-to-Boston corridor on Friday, grounding flights, closing workplaces and sending people rushing to get home ahead of a possible 1 to 3 feet of snow.

From New Jersey to Maine, shoppers crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, something that became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.

"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino warned. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

By Friday evening, Boston had just 2.5 inches of snow and New York City had just 2, but parts of southeastern Massachusetts had more than 6 inches and central Rhode Island had more than 8.

The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode Island could receive more than 2 feet, with most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for 2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches.

By Friday evening, the New York-to-Boston corridor was experiencing blizzard-like conditions, with blowing, swirling snow and freezing rain. Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries.

Forecasters said wind gusts up to 75 mph could cause widespread power outages and whip the snow into fearsome drifts. Flooding was expected along coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey the hardest and is considered Jersey's worst natural disaster.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, said the winter storm was a collision of two storms and may end up among the Boston area's Top 5 most intense ever.

Thursday's bout of rain, sleet, ice and snow across the Chicago area tied up traffic, left hundreds of flights delayed or canceled, and left some north suburbanites digging out of nearly 10 inches of snow, while making driving and walking treacherous for Chicagoans and suburbanites alike.

And by early next week, the snow, sleet and ice could be just a memory, as temperatures are expected to rise.

Snowfall amounts varied widely, according to the National Weather Service. The highest reported snowfall was in Beach Park, where 9.6 inches fell, the weather service reported on Friday. High snowfall amounts were reported across the far north and northwest suburbs, according to the weather service. Lake Villa saw 8.8 inches; Woodstock, 8 inches; Gurnee, 7.8 inches; Mundelein, 7.1 inches, and Highwood, 6.4 inches. Closer to the city, 2.1 inches was reported in Lincolnwood, and just under 2-inches fell in Oak Park. The official snowfall total for Chicago in the 24-hour period from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday, taken at O'Hare International Airport, was 1.5 inches, according to the weather service.

The conditions caused airlines to cancel more than 225 flights at O'Hare, where delays averaged 60 minutes, according to the city Department of Aviation. Midway International Airport reported "a dozen" flights delayed 30 minutes or more with minor cancellations. Flight cancellations continued into Friday at Chicago's two airports, but these were the result of a big storm that was expected to bear down on the East Coast.

Hector Gonzalez's flight to Puerto Rico was just one of nearly 5,000 flights cancelled across the country.

"Due to the storm, I'm delayed until tomorrow morning at5:30am because they cancelled the flight. It's just weather. You can't do anything about weather," Gonzalez says.

Fidencio Leija is traveling from Houston to Miami but thewinter storm derailed his itinerary.

"I said what am I going to do while I'm here so many hours so I sent a message on Facebook to a good friend of mine that I've known since '03 but we haven't seen each other since 2008," Leija says of his time at the airport. "The airline says because of the flights that were comingin from New York and different places, those flights were delayed which in turndelayed my flight so it's like a domino, we can say a snowball effect right, sonow I'm struggling."

"I thought I'd share some time here while he waits to go to sun in Miami," Maria Morales says.

Snow showers were expected in far southeast Cook County and Lake County, Indiana Friday afternoon, with one to two inches expected on the Illinois side of the border and up to three inches possible in Lake County, according to the weather service.

While temperatures will be seasonal on Saturday, with highs in the mid-30s and lows in the 20s, Sunday could bring rain or more freezing rain in the morning, with all rain in the afternoon. Highs will be in the lower 40s, but it will be blustery, with gusts up to 35 mph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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