The state of emergency went into effect at 5 p.m., along with a commercial vehicle travel restriction.
Several counties along the Jersey Shore are under a blizzard warning. The rest of the state is under a winter storm warning.
"Our advice to everyone is to be prepared to hunker down once you get home this afternoon and stay home," Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. "Stay home tonight and stay home tomorrow. Whatever you may need to get through a snow day, get it on your way home today, so you don't have to venture out."
The governor also said he's postponing his trip to Washington, D.C. for the meeting of the National Governor's Association to help oversee the storm response.
As CBS2's Meg Baker reports, the ocean was almost like a lake during the day with very little breeze, but you could tell a storm was coming based on the packed grocery stores.
One ShopRite was a "madhouse," as one worker described it. With carts full, people raced out to get to their cars Friday evening as the snow started to pick up.
"Relish, Frosted Flakes, coffee, milk, some bread, all the classics," Belmar resident Aubrey Taylor said.
"Ice cream," another shopper said.
The neighboring gas station on Route 35 had a steady stream of cars filling up.
"We don't know if the electric is gonna turn on and off or not. Gonna have different situations. It's a nor'easter, anything can happen, so you always top off your tank," Monmouth County resident Cindy Shauger said.
Snow began arriving around 6 p.m. and intensified as the night went on, coupled with winds over 30 mph.
Mantoloking sent out a blizzard warning to residents. The main concern there on the barrier island is back bay flooding.
"Back bay flooding here on a fairly regular basis," Mantoloking Mayor Lance White said. "Once in a while the streets can get impassable. There are seven parts of our town where that really occurs worst. If that's the case, people are told they dial 911 ... All it does is complicate things if something happens, if you slide, you know, into a utility pole or something, now someone's gotta come and get you."
Just north in Point Pleasant Beach, plows were tuned up and ready to take to the streets.
"We just sent all of our DPW workers home because we're anticipating them working nonstop once the snow starts until all our streets are cleared curb to curb, so they have a real long stretch ahead of them," Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra said.
The mayor says he's not overly concerned about flooding.
"We're really only expecting minor coastal flooding," he said. "When you have a nor'easter, that's what pushes the waves on shore and pushes the storm surge on shore. We're expecting this storm to kind of push in a northwestern fashion, which will take a lot of that storm surge away."
Seasonal protective dunes stand tall in Spring Lake, bracing for the storm's impact.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden says emergency crews are fully staffed and ready. Some flooding could be exacerbated by the large amount of snow expected.
"When the storm drains become packed with ice and snow and our drainage becomes a little bit more challenging," Golden said.
Golden says a major concern is strong gusts of wind that could take down power lines.
"We've been in touch with our partners at JCP&L who are at the ready. Fortunately, this isn't a systemwide storm for them. In other words, it doesn't go out into the other states in their coverage area for First Energy, so they will be able to focus crews in our coverage area of storm," he said.
"If you lose power, don't assume somebody else is calling it in. Report it to your utility immediately. If you see a downed power line, stay clear of it, don't go near it, and again, call it in," Murphy said.
The governor says the state is ready for whatever comes their way.
"The worst of this storm is going to be felt in the eastern half of our state. As you move east from the turnpike, snow totals are anticipated to increase from 6-8 [inches] to 8-12 [inches] and then ultimately a foot to 18 inches along the shore from Monmouth County right on down to Cape May," he said.
Murphy is asking residents for patience, saying the state will need a few days to fully clear the snow away.
Stick with CBS2, CBS News New York and CBSNewYork.com for the latest forecast and weather alerts. CBS2's Elijah Westbrook and Meg Baker contributed to this report.
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