A winter storm slammed into the U.S. Northeast with howling winds and frigid cold, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of the region and threatening more.

Christmas break was extended on Friday for tens of thousands of students and travel woes spread across the region. U.S. airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights nationwide on Thursday ahead of the storm and some major highways in New York were shut down overnight.

“It’s been a tough road,” said traveller Heather Krochuk of Toronto, Canada, inside a Boston hotel on Thursday night after her flight was cancelled. “(But) we have a place to sleep that isn’t the airport.”

The National Weather Service said 21 inches of snow had fallen in Boxford, just north of Boston, by Thursday night, while other parts of Massachusetts had 18 inches. Upstate New York had 18 inches of snow while New York City was expected to get about 8 inches.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and ordered nonessential state workers to stay home on Friday. State offices and courthouses were closed on Friday, as well as many local city offices. State offices were also closed in Massachusetts.

Forecasters say temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing and wind chill readings could hit minus 23 Celsius.

The weather service issued a blizzard warning for Cape Cod, coastal areas north and south of Boston and part of Maine as well as New York’s Long Island, where up to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust to 72 kph.

“We’re going to see a lot of snow and a lot of wind,” forecaster Jason Tuell said. “We’re concerned about whiteout conditions possibly tonight with the blowing and drifting snow.”

The heavy weather began rolling in on Thursday, just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation’s largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office.

Mr. Menino announced a parking ban and said the city’s schools would be closed on Friday. Boston airport shut down on Thursday night.

“What a New Year’s gift, to receive one last snowstorm as mayor,” said Mr. Menino, whose successor takes office on Monday.

Mr. de Blasio, who as public advocate in 2010 criticised his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said hundreds of plows and salt spreaders would hit the streets in New York City.

“We have to get it right, no question about it,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We are focused like a laser on protecting this city.”

A worker at a suburban Philadelphia salt storage facility was killed Thursday when a 100-foot-tall pile of road salt fell and crushed him. Police said the man was trapped while operating a backhoe. There was no immediate word on what may have caused the accident.

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