Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard were expected to bear the brunt of the storm as it strikes Massachusetts, perhaps dropping up to 10 inches of snow, forecasters said. Less snow was expected farther to the north and west in Massachusetts, with the Boston area getting just an inch or 2.
Schools across Cape Cod closed, while ferry and flight service to the islands was canceled. State courts in the region also closed. Winds that could gust up to 70 miles per hour was blowing snow horizontally Wednesday morning, stinging the faces of those few who dared venture outside.
The wind was expected to be the biggest concern up and down the coast.
On Maine's eastern tip, Washington County was expected to be pounded by strong winds gusting to 60 mph and snowfall that could reach as high as 2 feet on Wednesday. Gov. Paul LePage ordered state offices in Washington and Hancock counties closed.
Blizzard warnings were in effect in both states. The National Weather Service also warned of coastal flooding and significant beach erosion along the Massachusetts coast and wind gusts causing scattered power outages in eastern Maine.
In Bourne, Mass., 6- to 8-foot churning brown swells crashed along Sagamore Beach, eerily vacant of its usual joggers and dog walkers. Gusts to 60 mph flung snow and sand sideways, creating near-whiteout conditions.
"It's ridiculous - utterly ridiculous," said Mark Krause, manager of Sagamore Beach Ace Hardware, where snow shovels recently were put away to make room for stacks of lawn fertilizer. "It's supposed to be 50. Everyone's supposed to be out working in their yards. I don't get it."
"This sucks," he said, dashing to secure glass doors repeatedly blown open by swirling winds.
March is supposed to go out like a lamb, "but this is not a lamb," said George Hermanspan, who was fueling school buses in the neighboring village of Cedarville. "It shouldn't be happening. But Mother Nature does what she wants, and there's nothing much we can do or say about it."
Just days after the official end of one of the snowiest winters on record, the storm began heading up the Interstate 95 corridor on Tuesday, dropping snowflakes onto Washington, D.C.'s budding cherry trees and dusting government buildings in northern Virginia. Almost 4 inches of snow was reported at Dulles International Airport and 1.7 inches at Reagan National Airport.
As the storm moved north, it dropped about 6 inches of snow in southern Delaware's Sussex County and blanketed parts of southern New Jersey, where 6 1/2 inches of snow was reported in Cape May, 5 1/2 inches in Middle Township and 4 inches at Atlantic City International Airport.
Taunton, Mass-based meteorologist Matt Doody was unfazed by the prospect of more snow during a seemingly relentless season. "Here in New England, we're generally used to dealing with weather like this," he said early Wednesday.
Although spring began a week ago, it's not unusual to have storms so late in the year, said weather service spokesman Bill Simpson. The Boston area got more than 2 inches of snow in an April storm last year and was blanketed with almost 2 feet the same month in 1997.
"I can't wait for it to warm up," 20-year-old Dajuan Davis of Boston, a massage school student bundled up in a heavy jacket, said Tuesday. "I'm from North Carolina. I'm not used to this cold weather."