People walk on East 60th Street on the east side of Manhattan as snow falls January 21, 2014 in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Doug Stanglin and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
A winter storm lashed the East Coast on Tuesday, bringing heavy snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures to 50 million people from North Carolina to New England.
The bitter cold and blowing snow brought many activities to a halt, shutting down schools and government operations and snarling evening commutes as well as air travel.
Nearly a foot and half of snow fell in parts of New Jersey, and Philadelphia saw a little over a foot of snow, the National Weather Service said. New York City had 10 inches, while parts of Maryland had 9. Manalapan, N.J., had 13 inches of snow by Tuesday evening.
Heavy snow caused travel havoc in parts of the Midwest too. A nearly 60-mile stretch of Interstate 65 in southern Indiana was closed in both directions because of ice, snow and numerous crashes.
"Today's one of those days if you don't have to be out, you should just stay home," said Sgt. Jerry Goodin, spokesman for the Indiana State Police in Sellersburg.
Airlines canceled nearly 3,500 flights Tuesday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware, with thousands more delayed.
With the storm expected to persist into tomorrow, airlines grounded nearly 900 Wednesday flights -- including 128 on JetBlue, 100 on United and more than 200 on American and its regional affiliates, according to FlightAware.
The Weather Channel reported that heavy lake-effect snow near Gary, Ind., had stopped traffic on a section of I-80/94. Close to 20 inches of snow had been reported in Gary.
In Delaware, it took one driver an hour and 45 minutes to make a normal 20-minute drive from Wilmington to the New Castle area.
Winter storm warnings remained in effect along much of the Interstate 95 corridor up the coast, with expected accumulations of 6-12 inches, according to AccuWeather. Temperatures across the eastern U.S. will be 10 to 25 degrees below average.
Some of the worst conditions were forecast to hit the nation's capital, Baltimore and Philadelphia in the afternoon and evening hours, and the New York-Boston corridor from late afternoon through the overnight hours Tuesday night.
There will be little relief from the frigid air after the storm system passes. Just as commuters are digging out from the day-long snowstorm Wednesday morning, bitterly cold air will spread across the East. High temperatures will be at least 10 to 20 degrees below average, even as far south as Miami, according to AccuWeather.
Anticipating a commuting nightmare Tuesday, the federal government closed offices in the Washington area. Both chambers of Delaware's General Assembly also canceled sessions.
Michael Ferrell, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, said the district generally provides night shelter for about 2,000 homeless people on cold winter nights."We will keep existing shelters open 24 hours a day until the cold spell breaks," Ferrell said. He said some recreational facilities will be opened. Transit buses might even be strategically placed around the district as temporary warming sites.
Schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky sent students home early or were closed for an extra day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
The snow Tuesday morning canceled classes for more than 150,000 students across northern Kentucky and southern Indiana.
For Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, it was the fifth time this school year parents had to scramble to find child care.
"This is getting beyond ridiculous," said Sarah Hansen, who was scraping an inch of ice off her windshield early Tuesday morning in order to take her two children to a friend's house. "I understand why they are canceling school, but as a working parent, I can't take five days off from work."
The prospect of heavy snow and dangerous driving conditions were cited for a decision to cancel a post-inaugural party Tuesday evening on Ellis Island for embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"The greatest totals are likely for southern New England, and gusty winds are likely in this area to accompany the snow," said weather service meteorologist David Hamrick. Blizzard conditions are likely in southeastern Massachusetts.