By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The eastern United States faces a major winter storm this week that could reach blizzard conditions in some areas and snarl plans for travelers returning from holiday trips, forecasters said on Wednesday.
The powerful storm will stretch from the Midwest into the mid-Atlantic states and New England on Thursday and Friday, forecasters said.
"We are telling people, prepare for road closings and take mass transit. Especially tomorrow," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters in a conference call about the storm.
A double-barreled weather system aimed at both upstate New York and the New York metropolitan area, especially Long Island, could dump 10 to 12 inches of snow accompanied by high winds and frigid temperatures, he said.
The National Weather Service forecast snowfall along the I-90 highway corridor from Chicago to Syracuse, New York, to Boston through early Friday.
The heaviest accumulations - up to a foot - were forecast for the New York metropolitan area, parts of Connecticut and in Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston, said Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com.
Less snowfall is expected in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. A quick freeze and slippery conditions are likely around Baltimore and Washington, he said.
"It will be far from the worst storm to ever hit the area, but people should be prepared for flight delays and cancellations," Sosnowski wrote on the Accuweather.com website.
More than 94 million people were estimated to be traveling during the holiday season through January 1, according to the automotive group AAA, although many people may not be planning to head home until later this week or over the weekend.
The last time a major storm slammed into the New York area at the winter holidays was in 2010, when 20 inches of snow fell on the city two days after Christmas. Streets were clogged, transportation slowed to a crawl and emergency services were snarled for days.
This powerful storm is likely to bring biting winds, Sosnowski said.
Another storm may bring move into the Northeast on Sunday, Accuweather.com said.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg)