Forecasters said the fast-moving storm had the potential to be the most powerful one that some areas have seen in a mostly snow-free winter.
Many communities announced parking restrictions in advance of the storm, and some school systems canceled classes on Thursday, including New York City, Philadelphia and Boston.
New York, Boston and Philadelphia have closed their public schools for the day.
With the storm subsiding Thursday night, the National Weather Service released an unofficial snowfall map, with observed totals from spotters as of 8 p.m.
Blizzard warnings are in effect Thursday as a major snowstorm hammers the Bay State. Less than half of the flights into or out of New York's LaGuardia Airport, Newark International Airport in New Jersey, and Boston's Logan International airport were able to make it out.
According to weather broadcast, the quick-moving storm is expected to move back into the sea late Thursday.
A blizzard warning was in effect for parts of Long Island, while a winter storm warning was issued for New York City, parts of Hudson Valley, Connecticut and New Jersey.
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Philadelphia mostly "dodged a bullet", Mayor Jim Kenney said, as the city received a couple of inches of snow.
The first snow-related death was reported in NY on Thursday when a doorman shoveling snow on the Upper East Side died after slipping and falling through a glass window, NY police said.
Minor coastal flooding is possible around 9:30 a.m., but at that high tide the winds are still picking up.
Boston has officially reached blizzard status, according to meteorologist Stephanie Dunten of the National Weather Service in Taunton, as has New Bedford, Hyannis, Marshfield and Beverly.
Some areas experienced "thunder snow", violent bursts of weather featuring both snow and lightning. "It's not going to be a good travel day", Doody said.
Numerous city's bustling streets and roads are empty with many people choosing to stay indoors away from the freezing temperatures. Boston should get about a foot of snow, with Springfield and Fitchburg, also in MA, seeing a few inches less. Boston canceled school on Friday, too.
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