Forecasters expected the storm to be followed immediately by a blast of face-stinging cold air that could break records in more than two dozen cities. As the storm travels north, snow will develop along the Mid-Atlantic coast and in the Northeast, with possible blizzard conditions in the New England region.
Journalist Chris Pollone has the latest from Boston.
The snow in Tallahassee was the first snow seen in Florida's capital for three decades. The city's schools were closed and airports are already crippled by cancellations as residents in the region grapple with the snow through the early evening.
Many governors or local leaders have declared emergencies, and blizzard warnings were in effect in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia.
The US National Weather Service measured wind gusts of more than 113 km/h, which downed power lines and trees.
Utility companies across the East worked to fix downed power lines as about 31,000 customers remained without electricity early on Friday, down from nearly 80,000 the day before. The National Weather Service in Boston tweeted the flooding could be some of the worst experienced in 40 years.
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The powerful storm was a result of bombogenesis, known as a "bomb cyclone", which is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a "midlatitude cyclone that rapidly intensifies" and "can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters".
The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported almost 5,000 canceled flights across the United States. The snow, combined with "exceptionally strong winds", means crews will be working in near-whiteout conditions, New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.
New York's three major airports and Boston's Logan International seeing as many as three out of four flights called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
Travelers arrive at the Delta Airlines terminal at LaGuardia Airport during Storm Grayson in New York City, New York, on January 4, 2018. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority canceled ferry service in Boston Harbor and was running commuter trains on a reduced schedule.
"We thought we were going to get six inches", said Brian Ireland of Plymouth. Frozen switches and high winds interfere with above-ground train operations, he said.
Officials all down the coast are asking people to stay off the roads. No one was injured in the incident.
Officials reported traffic accidents throughout the Northeast and the storm's reach extended to eastern Canada. Bob Beres of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Power outages are likely and travel will be hard or impossible in some area, he said. "You can find warming centres by contacting local authorities", National Grid power company, which serves MA, said on Twitter.