Snow, sleet and freezing rain hammer parts of the Northeast

"It will be a rough couple of days," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in Utica, which could see more than a foot of snow.

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By Phil Helsel

Snow, sleet and freezing rain were hammering parts of the Northeast early Sunday, with a winter storm warning in place from Ohio Valley to northern Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy snow fell across parts of the Midwest and the Northeast with more than two feet expected to fall in northern Maine.

"A narrow zone of sleet and freezing rain is also expected to slide across southern and central New England as well as coastal Maine today into tonight," the service said.

Already a swath of the Midwest has been battered by snow and freezing cold temperatures for days, leaving flights cancelled and people sheltering at home.

On Saturday morning a passenger jet slid off a runway at Chicago's O'Hare airport "due to the weather conditions," officials said.

There were no injuries after the United Airlines jet, which had around 129 passengers people on board coming from Phoenix, according to authorities and NBC Chicago, which cited the city’s fire department.

United Airlines said Flight 656 rolled off the concrete surface “due to the weather conditions.” The passengers deplaned safely and crews were working to recover the aircraft, the Chicago Department of Aviation said.

More than 650 flights were canceled at the Chicago airport due to overnight snow and winds, the airport said on Twitter.The National Centers for Environmental Prediction said more than 5 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago between 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday and 3.00 a.m. ET Sunday, and more than 10 inches had fallen in Mansfield, Ohio.

By Sunday afternoon, 171 flights were canceled at O'Hare, according to FlightAware. Also on Sunday, more than 520 flights in and out of Boston Logan International Airport had been canceled due to the weather, according to FlightAware.

Meanwhile, a total of four tornadoes touched down in Mississippi and Louisiana Sunday morning uprooting trees, pulling down power lines and damaging homes, according to the National Weather Service.

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The weather service said Saturday that there is a 70 percent probability of a foot of snow in parts of northern Pennsylvania and central New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday the state thruway system was banning tractor trailers and buses, with the exception of Interstate 95 in Westchester and Bronx counties, at 3 p.m. Saturday through the duration of the storm, to help snow plows keep roads clear and ensure access for first responders. "I am also urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary," Cuomo said in a statement.

"We have been through worse before, and we will get through this," Cuomo said Saturday in Utica. "It will be a rough couple of days. ... The wind chill, when you’re talking about minus 5, minus 10, minus 15-degree wind chill — that is serious."

The National Weather Service said Saturday that cities including Utica could see heavy snow of 12 to 20 inches, with the heaviest snow expected Saturday night into early Sunday. A winter storm warning was in effect until 4 p.m. Sunday. "Travel could be very difficult to impossible," the weather service said.

New York City was battered by a snowstorm in November that snarled transportation in the city, and the government’s response and preparations were criticized. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that precautions are being taken.

"We don't know exactly what we’re going to be dealing with here, but we do know it’s a real storm," with cold temperatures and the potential for icing, the mayor said, adding that officials are assuming “the worst, not the best." He called the storm "an ever changing situation," and encouraged residents to keep informed.

Snow and sleet accumulation forecasts call for 3 inches for New York City under the higher end precipitation models. Lower end models call for no accumulation. Winter weather advisories were canceled for parts of northeastern New Jersey and New York City, the weather service tweeted Saturday evening, but flash flood watches remain for much of the region.

A public information officer for Indiana State Police on Saturday tweeted that the safest place for drivers during the next 24 hours is at home.

The storm had caused a number of crashes by Sunday afternoon, with Illinois State Police reporting 338 weather-related traffic accidents and Maryland State Police reporting 137 weather-related accidents. No fatal crashes were reported in either state.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered a state of emergency that took effect at noon Saturday. The weather service warned of an increasing threat of "significant ice accumulation" along and north of Interstate 78, which runs through the center of the state towards Newark and New York City.

Boston could see between 4 and 6 inches of snow, and some parts of northwest Massachusetts could get between 8 to 12 inches the weather service tweeted Saturday. Hartford, Connecticut, could get between 4 to 6 inches. Portland, Maine, could see between 12 and 18 inches of snow.

Bikers crossing Park Street at the intersection of University Ave during a late afternoon snow storm on Jan. 18, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin.Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal via AP

The snow didn't stop some Midwesterners from enjoying the outdoors. Celeste Tremmel, 56, was out training for a marathon in Detroit on Saturday amid several inches of snow.

"When you run a marathon, you run no matter the weather," she told the Associated Press. She said that running in snow is "like running in sand, so you have to go a lot slower."

As of 3 p.m. ET Saturday, since Wednesday evening 5 inches of snow had fallen in Booneville, Arkansas; 5.3 inches of snow had fallen at Midway airport in Chicago; 5 ½ inches had fallen in northern Indiana; 8 inches had fallen in Portage, Michigan; and Toledo, Ohio saw 5 inches of snow, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kansas' governor also declared a state of disaster emergency on Friday due to the storm.

On Saturday at around 6 a.m., an equipment operator with the state transportation department died in a rollover accident while conducting snow removal operations on a highway in Johnson County, south of Kansas City, according to the agency and NBC affiliate KSHB of Kansas City. The cause of the single-vehicle crash is still under investigation, and it is unclear if it was weather-related.

KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz called the worker experienced and dedicated. "I've extended my thoughts and prayers to the entire KDOT family this morning," she said. The worker was identified as Stephen Windler. The Kansas Highway Patrol said in an online crash report that he was 25. The report said he was ejected from the vehicle in the rollover crash.

CORRECTION (Jan. 19, 6:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified the airline involved in an incident at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It was a United Airlines flight, not American Airlines.

Saphora Smith contributed.