By Elizabeth Dilts and Scott Malone
NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) - A major snowstorm producing blizzard-like conditions hammered the northeastern United States on Friday, causing 2,000 U.S. flight delays and cancellations, paralyzing road travel, and closing schools and government offices.
The first major winter storm of 2014 brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with nearly 2 feet of snow falling in some areas of Massachusetts.
Much of the U.S. Northeast saw heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures late on Thursday and early on Friday, said Jared Guyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The weather service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to 20 to 30 degrees below normal, with record lows possible on Friday.
It was still snowing in some places, such as Boston, "but we are probably past the peak in terms of intensity at this point," Guyer said, adding that the bitter cold and snow-scattering winds showed no signs of letting up.
Washington received more than 2 inches of snow, Baltimore some 3 to 6 inches, Philadelphia roughly 5 inches, Hartford 6 to 10 inches and Boston some 14 inches.
"If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow," said Zander Fortier, a 29-year-old architect from Boston's Roslindale neighborhood, where the flakes fell steadily on Thursday.
About 1,550 U.S. flights were canceled and 431 were delayed early on Friday, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks air traffic.
New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport suspended operations as the city's three major airports prepared hundreds of cots to accommodate stranded travelers. Boston's Logan International Airport said that up to a quarter of its scheduled flights had been canceled on Thursday.
The United Nations in New York and federal courts in New Jersey shut down, and New York public schools and the City University of New York closed. Schools were also closed in Hoboken and Jersey City, in New Jersey, and in Boston and Providence, Massachusetts.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told CNN Friday morning that most schools and colleges in the state were closed.
The storm posed the first major challenge to Bill de Blasio, the newly elected mayor of New York, which expected to see up to 8 inches of snow.
De Blasio said in a statement that nearly 2,500 snowplows were on the streets of the biggest U.S. city as of early Friday, with the top accumulations 6.5 inches.
He urged New Yorkers to stay home, saying, "This has been and remains a dangerous storm."
New York Governor Mario Cuomo said the storm had little impact on New York City's transportation network, but blizzard-like conditions meant rail service on Long Island would run on weekend schedules.
In Massachusetts, 3,338 crews were clearing roads, with 999 working on the heavily hit North Shore district alone, the state Department of Transportation said.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told non-essential state workers to head home on Thursday, as did his officials in neighboring Connecticut.
The Office of Personnel Management told hundreds of thousands of federal workers in Washington they could work from home or take an unscheduled leave because of the storm.
A city worker in Philadelphia was killed after a machine he was using was crushed by a mound of de-icing rock salt, NBC News reported. In Chicago, a man was in critical condition after being pulled out of an icy Lake Michigan by fire fighters.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Clive McKeef and Alden Bentley)