Ferries to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket stopped running and courthouses were closed. Residents were urged to stay home and off the road.
The National Weather Service said the storm met blizzard standards with three hours of sustained 35-mph winds. Forecasters predicted snowfalls would total 6 inches to a foot in most of the Cape.
The off-shore storm affected much of eastern Massachusetts but was far weaker west of the Cape Cod Canal, which divides the peninsula from the mainland. High winds were reported in Boston but only a scattering of snow was predicted.
East of the canal was another story.
“It looks like the snow is coming down sideways,” George White, a Wellfleet fire lientenant, said. “Residents should stay home and stay off the roads. The roads are bad. We have snowplows out now.”
In Chatham, a 200-year-old house across from the beach collapsed. Officials said the house was being renovated and had been elevated.
Nantucket appeared to be hardest hit with wind gusts of more than 70 mph reported. More than 1,200 homes and businesses lost power, affecting a sizable percentage of the year-round population.
Officials said many of the drivers on the island who did venture out ended up stuck in snowbanks.
Forecasters predicted a return to more springlike weather for the Cape by Thursday.