PHILADELPHIA - The fourth nor'easter in three weeks pushed its way up the East Coast on Wednesday, the first full day of spring, packing high winds and the potential for a foot or more of snow from West Virginia to New England.
Airlines canceled thousands of flights and school districts throughout the Northeast canceled classes ahead of the storm that was expected to intensify Wednesday afternoon, with heavy, wet snow a threat to knock out power around the region. Shore towns were warned of the possibility of coastal flooding.
Snow started falling Tuesday night in West Virginia and Kentucky and continued through Wednesday morning, while mid-Atlantic states saw a wintry mix before the precipitation was to change over to all snow.
The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to kick into gear in the mid-Atlantic by late Wednesday morning, then head north to New York and New England. But forecasters noted that the storm had sharp gradients that could cause several inches to fall in some spots, while nearby areas could see much less accumulation.
Winter-whipped residents said they were ready for the latest storm, though many hoped it would be the last and give way to spring.
"I didn't think I'd still need to keep storm stuff in my car in late March, but what are you going to do?" Wilson Collins said as he prepared to leave his Toms River, New Jersey, home on Wednesday morning, checking his trunk to make sure he had a shovel, a blanket and other emergency items. "I'm hoping most of the snow will accumulate just on the grass, but the roads will be a mess no matter what. I just hope this is finally it."
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson said the latest storm was tough to call.
"It's definitely a tricky forecast," Petersen said. "We're still expecting heavy snows throughout the region, but there could be lower numbers in some coastal areas where warmer temperatures are causing rain or more of a wintry mix."
Residents were being urged to stay home and off the roads, if possible, on Wednesday, so crews could work to keep streets clear.
The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported more than 3,800 canceled flights across the U.S. on Wednesday, most in the Northeast.
On the ground, Amtrak scaled back service on the Northeast corridor and some states banned certain types of trucks from major highways.
Shipkowski reported from Toms River, New Jersey.