Packing cold air, snow and freezing rain a massive winter storm bore down on the Northeast early Monday after pummeling the Midwest over the weekend with forecasters warning of "hazardous travel conditions."
The storm "is going to be a real mess," said Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Sweeping across the country from Southern Missouri to New York, Weather Channel forecaster Kevin Roth said Eastern Kentucky, Virginia and Washington DC would be hardest hit.
Southern Pennsylvania could also be slammed by 6 to 8 inches of snow, while nearly a foot of the white stuff was predicted to blanket parts of New Jersey.
"It will finally blow offshore into the Atlantic at about 10 p.m. ET tonight," Roth said.
The predicted severity of the storm prompted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to declare a state of emergency on Sunday night, and to close all government offices on Monday.
"I encourage all New Jerseyans to drive carefully and remain off the roads if possible so that our first responders and public safety officials can safely respond to any emergency situations," Christie said in a statement.
Federal offices were also ordered closed in Washington, D.C. Monday, so votes scheduled in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were postponed, and District of Columbia Public Schools have canceled classes.
In anticipation of the storm hitting the Northeast, airlines preemptively cancelled 1,500 flights on Monday. More than 2,000 flights into and out of the U.S. were cancelled by 5 a.m. ET on Monday, according to FlightAware.com.
Both Southwest and JetBlue Airlines issued weather advisories and said they would waive cancellation fees in more than a dozen airports, including three in New York, two in Pennsylvania and two in Washington D.C.
“Based on the weather forecast, we are expecting widespread flight cancellations,” read a statement from Regan National and Dulles International airports in Washington D.C.
Widespread power outages are likely Monday, across parts of Arkansas, northern Mississippi, west and north Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, where freezing rain accumulates on tree limbs the Weather Channel warned.
Central Indiana was under a winter storm warning from Saturday night into Monday morning, and is set to accumulate 5 to 8 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. As of Feb. 15, the state had already seen its snowiest winter in three decades, the state Transportation Department said.
The frigid temperatures in the heartland were responsible for at least one death. A 13-year-old girl died in an overturned SUV Sunday when the driver lost control on a slick Missouri highway, according to the State’s Highway Patrol. A 14-year-old girl and two adults were also seriously injured in the crash, in which none of the victims were wearing seat belts, officials said.
The system caused chaos in the Rockies. More than 100 vehicles were caught in collisions on Saturday on Interstate 25 in Denver, including 45 involved in a chain-reaction accident caused by "slick roads, fog, and human error," Denver police said.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration captured a satellite image of the huge swath of storm clouds as they continued their march eastward Sunday.
Any hopes of finally putting the winter wardrobe away were thwarted by the National Weather Service however.
“Unseasonably cold temperatures more typical of January will prevail east of the Rocky Mountains for the next few days keeping winter around for a while longer,” they said.
Henry Austin of NBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published March 2 2014, 4:01 AM