Blizzard warnings are in effect for parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and extend into New Hampshire and Maine.
Forecasters say the snow will fall quickly and accumulate fast and are urging people to get to a safe place because they might have to stay there for quite some time.
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving."
People have been asked to be well prepared in New York City and New Jersey, which were both hit hard by October's devastating Hurricane Sandy and have still not fully recovered.
Hurricane Sandy killed more than 100 people in the United States, bringing hurricane-force winds and heavy rains to a wide swathe of the US East Coast.
The storm plunged more than 3 million people into darkness, about half of them in New York and New Jersey. It also forced the shutdown of public transit, schools, airlines, and financial markets in the East Coast’s largest cities.
Nearly 3,800 flights have been cancelled on the East Coast of the United States as the region braces for a "potentially historic" storm that could dump up to 3 feet (about one meter) of snow in some areas.
Airlines cancelled 3,775 flights on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at New York City's three main airports, Boston's Logan Airport, other New England airports, and Philadelphia International Airport.
People have started stocking up on food and supplies as the National Weather Service has warned of the possibility of power cuts and transport chaos.
The National Weather Service also said overnight travel would be "extremely hazardous, if not impossible" on Friday.