NEW YORK (AP) - A sloppy late-season storm lashed the Northeast with sleet and more than a foot of snow in some places Monday, paralyzing much of the Washington-to-Boston corridor after a remarkably mild February had lulled people into thinking the worst of winter was over.
The powerful nor'easter grounded more than 5,000 flights, knocked out power to over 100,000 customers from Virginia to Pennsylvania, closed schools in cities big and small and prompted dire warnings to stay off the roads.
As the morning wore on, the storm track shifted slightly and snow switched to sleet in Philadelphia and New York. Blizzard warnings were lifted in some places along the coast, and forecasts of a foot or more of snow were cut in half.
But residents farther inland were getting clobbered with snow.
"The winters seem to be upside down now. January and February are nice and then March and April seem to be more wintry than they were in the past," he said Bob Clifford, who ventured out on an early morning grocery run for his family in Altamont, near Albany, New York.
The flight cancellations included more than 2,800 in the New York City area alone, where about 200 passengers were stranded at Kennedy Airport. Amtrak canceled or modified service up and down the Northeast Corridor. And the above-ground portions of the New York subway system were being shut down.
In the nation's capital, the federal government announced a three-hour delayed arrival for non-emergency employees, with an option to take the day off or telecommute. Emergency employees were told to report on time unless otherwise directed.
"Good day to make brownies ... and or read a book," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, which was expecting up to 2 feet of snow in some areas.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the entire state and instructed non-essential state employees to stay home.
In Massachusetts, where the forecast called for 12 to 18 inches of snow, Gov. Charlie Baker encouraged motorists to stay off the roads and to take public transit only if absolutely necessary, saying the fast snowfall rates would make driving hazardous.
Schools in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere closed.
The nor'easter comes a week after the region saw temperatures climb into the 60s, and less than a week before the official start of spring.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urged people not to be lulled into a false sense of security because of the mild winter.
"This is a serious winter storm," he said, adding that parts of the state could see over a foot of snow. "It's obviously going to be the biggest event we've had this season and people need to be prepared. They need to be safe."
President Donald Trump tweeted a photo of his Monday evening meeting with Washington's mayor and transit chief to discuss storm preparations.
The heaviest snowfall was expected Tuesday morning through the afternoon, with as much as 2 to 4 inches per hour.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said about 700 National Guard members would be deployed along with more than 2,000 snowplows to keep up with the storm.
In Illinois, state police said snowy weather caused two crashes on a Chicago expressway that involved a total of 34 cars. Seven people suffered minor injuries.
The snow threat led college basketball teams to alter their March Madness travel plans. Villanova, top overall seed in the men's NCAA Tournament, left Philadelphia on Monday afternoon for Buffalo, New York, to get ahead of the storm.
But teams in the men's and women's tournaments rely on chartered flights, so any backlog at commercial airlines shouldn't be a problem.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York City; Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, New Jersey; John Kekis and Mike Hill in Albany, New York; Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island; Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; Shawn Marsh in Manasquan, New Jersey; Kristen DeGroot in Philadelphia; and Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.