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A winter storm grounded hundreds of flights early Wednesday as forecasters warned that parts of the Northeast face up to a foot of snow by Friday.

A day after meteorologists predicted a storm system was unlikely to bring snow to New York City this week, the forecast was revised and experts warned the Big Apple can expect between five and eight inches of snow through Thursday and Friday.

"It's going to be a pretty significant storm which will cause major travel disruption for a lot of people early in the new year," said Dave Houtz, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "Any untreated roads will be a real mess."

Coastal areas between Boston and New York will likely experience near-blizzard conditions, with wind speeds up to 30 mph and temperatures dropping into the teens, according to the National Weather Service.

Parts of New England could get up to 12 inches before the storm winds to a close late Friday.

The storm was early Wednesday moving in from the Great Plains, where it has caused hundreds of spin-outs.

Chicago and Detroit were already seeing snow by late Tuesday, and both cities are expected to get as much as 10 inches by the end of the week.

More than 300 flights due to go in or out of Chicago's O'Hare International on Wednesday had been cancelled by 8 a.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

Houtz said similar disruption was highly likely in the airports serving New York City and Boston as the storm arrived Thursday.

A winter storm watch was issued by the NWS for large areas of New York, Connecticut, southern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and northwest Pennsylvania. All of these areas could see snow.

"A coastal storm will bring the potential for heavy snow, near-blizzard conditions along the coast and dangerously cold wind," a NWS advisory posted just before 5 a.m. ET Wednesday warned.