• Reuters

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The U.S. East Coast from Philadelphia to New York City to Maine braced on Monday for a potentially historic blizzard that forecasters say could dump up to 3 feet (90 cm) of snow on the region and snarl transportation for tens of millions of people.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the northern section of the East Coast from Monday afternoon, putting states from New Jersey to Indiana under winter storm watches and advisories until Tuesday. Airlines canceled nearly 1,800 flights.

“This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference on Sunday afternoon, saying the snowfall could reach up to 3 feet.

De Blasio told residents of America’s financial capital and most populous city to stay off the roads and to “prepare for something worse than we have seen before.”

The biggest snowfall on record in New York City came in 2006, during a storm from Feb. 11 to 12 that dropped 26.9 inches (68 cm), according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

The NWS called the approaching system a “crippling and potentially historic blizzard,” with many areas along the East Coast expected to be blanketed by 12 inches to 24 inches of snow. The New York City area could be the hardest hit, with lashing winds and snowfall of 30 inches (76 cm) or more in some suburbs.

Delta Air Lines said on Sunday it was canceling 600 flights because of the blizzard warning for the East Coast, while United Airlines will cancel all Tuesday flights at airports in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

The carrier will limit operations beginning on Monday night at Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in the New York area, a spokeswoman said.

Southwest Airlines said Sunday evening it would cancel more than 130 of the 3,410 flights scheduled for Monday due to the storm, an increase from its earlier plan to cancel about 20 flights.

American Airlines said cancellation plans would not be finalized until Monday morning but that it expected “quite a few” flights to be affected. Flight-tracking website Flightaware.com showed 1,792 flights canceled for Monday as of Sunday night.

Cities along the heavily populated East Coast had snow plows and trucks on standby to dispense road salt.

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