Last Updated 2:17 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON An unpredictable winter storm that buried parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions with snow but barely laid a glove on Washington was bound early Thursday for New England, where it was expected to bring strong winds, more snow and the possibility of coastal flooding to New England.
At least eight deaths in four states have been blamed on the weather.
New Englanders were bracing for the brunt of the storm Thursday evening and Friday morning.
The National Weather Service was predicting up to 7 inches of heavy, wet snow in southeastern Connecticut and wind gusts that could hit 50 mph. A coastal flood warning was in effect starting Thursday morning for east-facing shores in Massachusetts, with up to a 3-foot surge at high tide in some areas. Central Massachusetts was bracing for 4 to 8 inches of snow, while early predictions were that Boston would get less.
Dozens of car crashes were reported across Connecticut Thursday morning. A FedEx tractor trailer overturned on Interstate 84 in Tolland, causing a chain-reaction crash involving about nine other vehicles, including a state police cruiser and two other tractor-trailers. The eastbound side of the highway was closed for hours Thursday morning, but no serious injuries were reported.
Sera Congi of CBS station WBZ-TV in Boston reported on "CBS This Morning" Thursday that this storm is expected to be a long one -- lasting 36 hours, through three high tide cycles -- with as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas of New England.
Waves and winds are expected to batter the coastline. Coastal flood warnings are in effect and at least two towns have already urged residents to evacuate before Thursday morning's high tide, Congi said.
"It will snow on and off, heavy at times today, tonight, and also through a good portion of tomorrow," said meteorologist Jeff Berardelli of CBS station WFOR-TV.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency and about 50 National Guard soldiers were sent out to help clear roads. Up to 20 inches of snow piled up in central and western parts of the state. More than 200,000 customers in Virginia lost power.
In southwest Virginia, a 22-year-old man was killed early Thursday after his vehicle ran off an icy Route 632, went over an embankment and landed upside down in a creek.
Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard says two other storm-related deaths occurred in the northern part of the state. She didn't have details Thursday.
In eastern Kentucky state police said a woman was killed Wednesday night in Whitesburg when she lost control of her vehicle on an icy road and struck another vehicle.
At least four other deaths were blamed on the storm, including two people killed when a semi-trailer slid off a snow-covered interstate in western Wisconsin. A central Indiana woman died when a semi-trailer plowed into her car after she lost control merging onto the highway. Also, a man from Columbia City in northeast Indiana was killed when his snowmobile left the road, headed across a field and crashed into a wire fence.
The storm marched into the Mid-Atlantic region Wednesday, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow in some places and knocking out power to about 250,000 homes and businesses. It largely spared the nation's capital, which was expecting much worse and had all but shut down.
Officials in Washington didn't want a repeat of 2011, when a rush-hour snowstorm stranded commuters for hours, so they told people to stay off the roads and gave workers the day off.
According to Flightaware.com, more than 4,400 flights were cancelled in the U.S. due to the weather.
As the storm moved up the coast Wednesday night, it brought heavy winds to the Jersey Shore, still reeling from superstorm Sandy. Streets in Sea Bright, N.J., were flooding Thursday morning.
In Mantoloking, N.J., the Jersey shore town hardest-hit by Sandy, pounding surf broke through a temporary dune during the early-morning high tide. The dune breach forced the closing of a major coastal highway for several hours, but the highway re-opened late Thursday morning.
Detective Stacy Ferris said the breach spanned three oceanfront properties, sending 3 to 6 inches of water flowing through onto the highway. As a result, officials closed portion of Route 35.
The state Department of Transportation, along with Mantoloking's own public works crews and contractors, were busy scooping and pushing sand back into the breach to prepare for high tide, expected at about 3 p.m. Thursday.
"We're going to plug that hole before the next high tide," Ferris said.
Every one of the 521 homes in Mantoloking was damaged to some degree by Sandy. Many were completely destroyed and hundreds of others suffered major damage.
Winds raked the beachfront in Point Pleasant Beach, blowing drifts of sand onto Ocean Avenue, and shredding the decorative entrance canopy at a hotel across the street from the beach.
Lashing winds also blew off part of the roof of a Stone Harbor, N.J., condominium complex and Ocean City officials advised residents to move their cars to higher ground in preparation of possible flooding. Maryland's Bay Bridge, which connects Maryland's Eastern shore with the Baltimore-Washington region, was temporarily closed in both directions, because of wind gusts of up to 60 mph.
"The travel on the bridge was extremely scary," interior designer Kelly Kiley said after a tractor trailer overturned and leaned against a guardrail. "The crosswinds were terrible. Some of the taller box trucks were swaying."
In Maryland, the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday resumed searching for a distressed fishing boat that was lost in rough seas with two men on board. The Coast Guard said the 67-foot boat became disabled 15 miles east of Assateague Island Wednesday. The Coast Guard found a third man on a life raft and was able to rescue him.
The storm dumped 2 feet of snow in parts of neighboring West Virginia, closing schools in more than half the state and leaving more than 20,000 customers without power.
In Pennsylvania and Ohio, many areas had 4 to 6 inches of snow.
In Washington, where as much as 10 inches had been forecast, the storm did little but drop harmless snowflakes that rapidly melted amid warmer-than-expected temperatures. Federal offices in the region were to reopen Thursday.
In North Carolina, state officials said high winds led to sound side flooding along N.C. 12 and brought the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry run to a halt.
The storm dumped 2 feet of snow in parts of West Virginia, closing schools in more than half the state and leaving more than 20,000 customers without power.
In Pennsylvania and Ohio, many areas had 4 to 6 inches of snow. The weather service issued a winter storm warning for the Philadelphia area and parts of central Pennsylvania through Thursday morning.
Downtown Washington was unusually quiet Wednesday. Officials eager to avoid a repeat of 2011 pre-emptively shut down federal offices and canceled public schools. Non-emergency federal employees were treated to a paid snow day for the number of hours they were scheduled to work.
Some congressional hearings were postponed, but the House of Representatives managed to approve legislation to prevent a government shutdown on March 27 and President Barack Obama had dinner with GOP senators at a hotel Wednesday night.