Power was knocked out to hundreds of homes in New Jersey, flights were canceled at airports from Boston to Washington, D.C., and speed limits were lowered because of the wet, snowy conditions.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the New York City metro area and much of the Northeast, predicting that winds gusting between 40 and 50 miles per hour could bring down trees and power lines. Heavy snow warnings were issued from eastern Kentucky to New England.
On average, 12 to 18 inches of snow were expected throughout the metro region, with temperatures as low as 23 degrees, forecasters said. In Wayne, N.J., a foot of snow had accumulated early Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Silva.
CBS News correspondent Julie Chen reports that forecasters predicted a big dumping overnight - as much as a foot in the nation's capital.
The storm is good news and free advertising for ski resorts after an unseasonably warm January dragged down business, said Betsy Strickler at Jiminy Peak ski resort in western Massachusetts.
"The best PR is when people look up in the sky ... see the snow start to fall," she said.
In a rare display, lightning bolts joined the snow over LaGuardia Airport, where most airlines had canceled all flights until Sunday afternoon. Delta, Delta Shuttle and American Airlines had canceled all flights at the airport until Monday, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
More than 100 Sunday flights were canceled at John F. Kennedy International airport, including all Delta flights, and several carriers canceled most or all of their Sunday departing flights at Newark Liberty International.
Delta said it canceled its Sunday arrivals and departures at several other airports in the storm's path, including those in Philadelphia; Boston; Baltimore; Newark; Providence, R.I.; Washington, D.C.; and Hartford, Conn.
Four inches of snow had accumulated in parts of Fairfax, Va. late Saturday, and crews worked to clear the runways at Washington Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia.
In the hours before snow began falling, New York residents forming long lines at supermarkets as they stocked up on bottled water and basic supplies.
The city's 353 salt-spreading plow trucks went out with 200,000 tons of rock salt on hand, said Kathy Dawkins, spokeswoman for the Department of Sanitation. Twenty machines throughout the five boroughs would be melting up to 60 tons of snow per hour, she said.
The department's trucks have some 6,300 miles of city streets and roads to plow, about the distance from New York to Los Angeles and back, Dawkins said.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation had 600 trucks ready to plow snow and spread salt, plus 1,100 contractor trucks, the department said. Officials also lowered the speed limit on the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike to 45 mph.
About 2,100 road workers were on the job and more than 1,900 salt trucks and plows were out clearing roads around the Maryland, nearly a full deployment, officials said.