WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Thousands of commercial flights were canceled Friday as a major snowstorm swirled along the eastern seaboard and threatened to dump more than two feet of snow on the nation's capital by Monday.
Forecasters said the potentially historic storm began blanketing 15 states in snow on Friday afternoon and is expected to continue well into Sunday.
"Strong winds will combine with heavy snow to produce life-threatening blizzard conditions across portions of the Mid-Atlantic Friday night and Saturday," the National Weather Service said in a forecast Friday.
As a result, rare blizzard warnings were issued for Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and New Jersey.
Friday, airlines canceled more than 6,000 commercial flights that were scheduled for Friday and Saturday across the United States. United Airlines completely shut down its operations at Washington's two main airports -- Reagan National and Dulles -- until at least Sunday night.
"We see this as a major storm. It has life and death implications," Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "And all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way."
Public schools in the nation's capital were closed Friday, reflecting conditions seen across hundreds of miles on the East Coast.
More than 1,000 auto crashes have been blamed on the snow in North Carolina since Thursday and outages left nearly 70,000 people there were without electricity Friday afternoon, NBC News reported.
Nearly 90 million people in 25 states were impacted by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory from the National Weather Service -- stretching from as far south as Louisiana and as far north as southern New England.
Some forecasters predicted as much as two feet of snow in the hardest hit areas around D.C., and Baltimore.
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia had declared emergencies by Friday to quickly bring in needed resources after the storm. Drivers in some states are being asked not to call police if auto crashes are minor. Parts of New York are under a coastal flood watch from Saturday into Sunday during the high tide cycle.
"We cannot control the weather, but we can all be prepared for whatever the weather brings us," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said.