Spring kicked off with a wallop of wintry weather along the East Coast as the fourth nor'easter in three weeks rolled in with the potential for a foot or more of snow Wednesday. The first full day of the season included scenes of snow falling on blooming daffodils in suburban Philadelphia, New Yorkers twisting to fix blown-out umbrellas, tractor-trailers stuck on snowy highways and kids making their first snowman of spring.
Airlines canceled thousands of flights, and school districts throughout the Northeast called off classes ahead of the storm, which was expected to intensify in the afternoon and make its way into New England, with heavy, wet snow likely to knock out power across a wide area.
New York City braced for what could be its biggest March snowstorm ever, with 12 to 18 inches forecast. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, where most areas were expected to see at least 8 inches. Forecasters said Boston could get 6 inches, and the Philadelphia area could see a foot.
Follow along with storm updates below
Major cities cancel school
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city's public schools -- which have 1.1 million schoolchildren -- will be closed Wednesday.
"This storm is going to start slow but pick up very quickly," de Blasio said. "We have estimates as much as 12 to 15 inches of snow."
Schools were also closed in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Coastal flooding expected
Major coastal flooding will be expected with this storm, CBS News weather producer David Parkinson reports. The worst flooding is expected along the Jersey Shore, including Long Beach Island, Atlantic City and Ocean City. There could also be some flooding along the Long Island Sound. The worst flooding is expected at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. high tides.
Minor flooding is expected in Massachusetts, but the damage from the previous storms has already taken its toll.
Power outages possible
Major power outages are possible, especially given the hit the power grid took during the earlier March nor'easter.
On Monday, New York's Westchester County Board of Legislators held a special meeting on the massive power outages caused by the previous storms, grilling representatives of Con Ed and NYSEG, CBS New York reports.
Many customers in Westchester are still frustrated with the delayed response to power outages after those storms downed trees and power lines.
"There were three cables on the street, a pole with the transformer, a tree came down," said Mamaroneck resident Karen Fontecchio.
In New Jersey, cleanup from March's previous storms was still ongoing.
By Tuesday evening, Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency. He said the biggest shortfall during the last storm was the performance by utility companies, which the board of public utilities was investigating.
"We're also, preemptively in this storm to get work, to nudge them and all others ahead of this," Murphy said. "That encourages them bringing in other men and women from our sister utilities, which they are apparently doing."
PSE&G says it has mobilized nearly 600 mutual aid and contract employees ahead of the storm. JCP&L representative Ron Morano says wind is once again a major concern. In preparation for Wednesday, the company is bringing in extra workers from Ohio and setting up two more staging areas in Ocean and Essex County.
In addition, the utility company will have a daily call with local officials to get feedback and response.
Electrician Mike Lettera of Big Electric in Paramus says generator installations were at an all-time high.
Thousands of flights, dozens of trains canceled
8:58 a.m. ET: The nor'easter was disrupting travel plans Wednesday morning. Amtrak canceled more than 80 trains and modified some routes along the East Coast.
More than 3,500 flights were cancelled before 9 a.m., and nearly 400 were delayed. This has been the worst March for cancellations in five years.
CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reports from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where more than 65 percent of flights were canceled, that people who live on the East Coast and planned on traveling Wednesday should rethink those plans.
With the heavy snow that's expected to come down, crews will undoubtedly have trouble keeping planes de-iced and runways clear. Most airlines preemptively canceled flights to and from East Coast hubs.
Top U.S. carriers Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United are waiving fees to change trips.
Airlines and airports hope these proactive measures will help limit disruptions and get travelers back in the air as soon as possible.
Officials were also warning people to stay off the roads.
White House cancels public events
9:37 a.m. ET: The White House canceled its public events for Wednesday because of the storm.
President Trump had planned to hold a Cabinet meeting in the morning. It would have been the Cabinet's first meeting since Mr. Trump ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state last week. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has been tapped to replace Tillerson.
The other scheduled event was hosting the spring meeting of the Financial Services Forum, which describes itself as a nonpartisan economic policy and advocacy organization.
"I don't think we can handle another nor'easter"
10:14 a.m. ET: Winter storm alerts stretched from North Carolina to Massachusetts Wednesday morning. More than 68 million people are affected.
The snow was expected to pick up throughout the day, which is a problem for many power crews, CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan reports from Hagerstown, Maryland. The weight of the wet snow can cause tree limbs to snap and fall on power lines.
Crews were still cleaning up from last week's storm. Wednesday's nor'easter is the fourth in less than three weeks.
"I don't think we can handle another nor'easter," New Jersey business owner Eric Bernstein said.
"It's trying," said Brian Farran of South Orange, New Jersey. "It's cold. It's a lot of work. It's testing our patience."
More than 250,000 customers lost power in New England during the last storm, and with more wet and heavy snow piling up, the fear is that outages may be widespread again.
Police vehicle spins out of control on highway
11:10 a.m. ET: A Philadelphia police vehicle spun out of control on Interstate 95 and hit a guardrail Wednesday morning, CBS Philadelphia reports.
Two officers in the vehicle were taken to a hospital with what officials described as non-life-threatening injuries.
The crash caused several lanes to be closed on the highway.
Melania Trump posts snowy White House picture
11:43 a.m. ET: First lady Melania Trump posted a picture to social media showing how the White House Rose Garden looked during the storm Wednesday morning.
"Snow day @WhiteHouse," Trump said.
The picture shows the snow-covered garden and the roof of the Oval Office with the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the background.
Trump was supposed to speak at a ceremony for the International Women of Courage Award at the State Department, but the event was canceled because of the storm.
Weather severely hampers NYC air travel
12:41 p.m. ET: The executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says air travel in the New York City area will be "severely, severely affected by this storm."
Rick Cotton said at midmorning Wednesday that LaGuardia Airport had about 75 percent of its flights canceled. Newark Liberty and Kennedy were severely hampered as well and the situation is expected to worsen throughout the day.
American Airlines suspended operations at Newark until Wednesday evening and at LaGuardia until Thursday. The carrier planned to suspend operations at Kennedy after 1 p.m. Wednesday and resume them Thursday.
At New York's Port Authority bus terminal, Cotton says "virtually all of the long distance carriers" have canceled service.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says 5,500 utility workers and 300 National Guard members are at the ready. The state also has sent generators, light towers, plows, salt and other equipment and supplies downstate.
Van overturns in fatal crash on New York parkway
2:33 p.m. ET: New York police say slick roads were a factor in a fatal crash on Long Island.
According to Newsday, a woman was killed and five other people were injured when a van overturned on the Wantagh State Parkway in Nassau County.
It happened around 10 a.m. Wednesday, just as snow accumulation started to pick up.
"The roads are very icy, and the roads are dangerous," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference. "There is no reason to be on the roads unless it's an emergency."
A foot or more of snow was expected in some parts of the region.
Lovato, Timberlake shows postponed for storm
3:41 p.m. ET: Demi Lovato's show in Newark, New Jersey, and Justin Timberlake's concert in New York City were postponed due to the spring nor'easter.
Timberlake posted a video of himself in the snow on Instagram.
Timberlake says his Thursday night show at Madison Square Garden will still go on. Wednesday's concert will be rescheduled.
Lovato's show at the Prudential Center was rescheduled for April 2.
Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for New York City and its suburbs.
Tongue-in-cheek snow-making ban rescinded
4:04 p.m. ET: A New Jersey law enforcement agency has rescinded its tongue-in-cheek prohibition against schoolchildren doing numerous activities that kids believe will make it snow more (and thus cancel school).
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office issued the "ban" on Tuesday in a social media post.
Spokesman Al Della Fave rescinded it Wednesday following an online backlash from children - including his own.
Della Fave also posed for a photo on his Facebook page wearing a pair of his undershorts on his head (which he noted is the "most effective snow-making ritual") as penance for the "misguided mandate."
Police respond to hundreds of crashes in Va.
4:35 p.m. ET: Virginia State Police say they've responded to more than 240 traffic crashes since midnight and are asking drivers to avoid going out in the snow.
Police said in a statement that most of the 244 traffic crashes only involved damage to vehicles and there were no reported fatalities.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather or winter storm advisory for much of the state.
5 inches of snow recorded in Central Park
5:25 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service said that as of 4 p.m., five inches of snow had been recorded in Cenral Park. Daily snowfall records for March were recorded at JFK (2.6 inches) and Newark (5.5 inches), the National Weather Service said.
The National Weather Service earlier said the city and its northern suburbs could get 12 to 18 inches of snow before the storm dies down early Thursday morning, CBS New York reports.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at 5 p.m. that the city's public schools would be open. There are 1.1 million children in the city's public school system.
De Blasio said the New York City Sanitation Department is out in force and, if the storm held to its current timeline, city streets were expected to be in good shape for the morning commute.
"They certainly know how to handle a situation like this," de Blasio said.
Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers ready to help in storm
6:20 p.m. ET: Gov. Tom Wolf says more than 450 Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers remain on standby or are staged for possible missions throughout the night during the storm. Wolf said Wednesday afternoon that snow is expected to continue through the night and into early Thursday morning.
He says residents - especially those in the southern and eastern portions of the commonwealth - should continue to avoid unnecessary travel. The Pennsylvania Turnpike and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have lifted some restrictions on the turnpike and highways but have left others in place.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says it plans to resume normal weekday service Thursday but warns that some delays, bus route detours and suspensions, rail trip cancellations and other disruptions are possible.
"It is spring after all," meteorologist says
7:10 p.m. ET: CBS Boston meteorologist Eric Fisher says one feature of such a late-season nor'easter is a stronger sun angle. "It is spring after all," Fisher told CBS Evening News' anchor Jeff Glor.
As it heads toward night on the East Coast, there's still some heavy snow bands rotating in and cooling temperatures, Fisher said. There's been some thundersnow reported in parts of New Jersey, and the storm system will continue bringing those bands into southern New England.
The National Weather Service said most of the accumulation in Boston will be between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. Boston Public Schools have announced schools will be closed Thursday.
1 death on Long Island blamed on storm
8:25 p.m. ET: A van flipped over on Long Island's Wantagh Parkway just south of Hempstead Turnpike at around 10 a.m., CBS New York reports. A 51-year-old woman was killed, and five other woman were injured, including one woman who was ejected during the crash. Nassau County police responded to the scene right away, officials said.
A rookie officer just three weeks out of the academy was involved in the rescue, officials said.
"The occupants in the vehicle, it took a while to get out, but all along the gasoline line had ruptured, and there was gasoline being poured onto the officers and the scene. Their heroic actions no doubt saved... additional occupants of that vehicle," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Two tractor trailers were also involved in a separate crash on the Long Island Expressway in New Hyde Park at around the same time, CBS New York reported.
Ryder said police had aided 34 people, responded to 62 auto accidents, and had received more than 500 calls for service by midafternoon.
"I think that people are looking out the window and seeing this is not as bad we thought it was going to be. The fact - what we're hearing - the predictions are that it is just going to be just as bad as we thought," Curran said. "So I don't want people to get the false idea that it is safe now, because it is not."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for all of the downstate counties, including Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Parts of Jersey Shore dealing with coastal flooding
9:25 p.m. ET: Coastal flooding is a concern at the Jersey Shore from the latest nor'easter to batter the region, CBS Philadelphia reports. The coast could see 10- to 16-foot waves, which could lead to beach erosion.
In Avalon, moderate coastal flooding is expected during the evening high tide which happens at 11:47 p.m. Wednesday. The Townsend's Inlet Bridge will remain closed due to the storm.
12:05 a.m. ET: The snow is starting to pick up on Long Island and New England, which earlier had been spared from the snow. Snow is falling at a rate of 2-3 inches per hour on parts of Long Island and 1-2 inches per hour in New York City.
The eastern end of Long Island and Boston will be the only areas dealing with snow by Thursday morning.
High tide brings storm surges to Mass.
1:20 a.m. ET: A coastal flood advisory is in effect for Massachusetts' eastern coastline, the National Weather Service said. There were storm surges of 2-2.5 feet during high tide, which hit around 11 p.m.