The storm killed at least one person, left about 600,000 households without power, and disrupted thousands of flights.
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said meteorologist Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service in Massachusetts.
Blizzard alerts were in effect for the north-eastern coast, including the New York city area.
"Travel conditions will continue to be extremely hazardous if not impossible," the weather service warned.
Snowfall is forecast to total two to three feet in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
In the first death blamed on the blizzard, a man in his 70s was killed when a driver lost control of her car and ran into him in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Utility companies reported about 600,000 customers had been left without power across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut as the wet, heavy snow brought down trees and lines.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said 180,000 state residents had been left in the dark. National Guard troops were rescuing stranded motorists.
Chafee said: "We need people to stay off the roads right now. That's critical."
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, lost power and automatically shut down late on Friday, but there was no threat to the public, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Hartford, Connecticut, was blanketed by 34 inches of snow and St James, New York, recorded 27.5 inches, with more coming down.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said street-clearing crews had suspended operations as more than four inches of snow fell each hour.
"I've never seen snow fall like this all at once," said Segarra.
The heavy snowfall was backed by winds that gusted at up to 83mph at Cuttyhunk, New York, and brought trees crashing down across the region.
The storm also posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas still recovering from October's Superstorm Sandy.
The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine declared states of emergency before the storm.
Airlines cancelled more than 5300 flights yesterday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick banned most car travel from Friday afternoon, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state's highways to all but emergency vehicles.
The town of Wakefield, Massachusetts, north of Boston, told residents in an electronic phone message to stay off roads until later today.
From New Jersey to Maine, shoppers crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, which became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October.
Others filled up their cars with petrol, another lesson they had learned after Sandy.
Amtrak suspended railroad services between New York, Boston and points north on Friday afternoon.
The town of Gorham in Maine was buried under more than 31 inches of snow, and Philip Gagnon, chairman of the town council, said many roads would not be cleared until Monday.
"We've had our crews out since yesterday morning," he said. "It's going to probably take some time because they can only do so much before we can rest them."
In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston's record of 27.6in set in 2003, the Weather Service said.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that people should relax at home, do some cooking, or watch a movie. Bloomberg himself said he planned to catch up on his sleep.