Farther south, Georgia and the Carolinas braced for freezing rain, or a mixture of snow, ice and rain, Accuweather.com said.
Several Washington-area school districts closed schools early Friday, scores of planned events were canceled and many people left work to go home at midday, even though the roads were generally clear, The Washington Post reported.
The Chicago snow, part of a storm expected to hit much of the Midwest, began falling at 4:45 a.m. Friday, ending a 335-day streak without significant accumulation, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed 200 plow trucks to clear streets and apply salt to the roads.
The National Weather Service said extremely cold conditions will persist across the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Northeast this weekend.
As a result of the recent cold weather, most of the snow that is expected to fall will not melt on paved surfaces, and Accuweather.com said there will be enough snow in the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic to cause slippery conditions.
School districts in Tennessee and Georgia called off classes and flights inbound to Tennessee were canceled due to the weather.
The Washington Post said the forecast called for most of the expected snow to begin arriving before the afternoon rush hour.