Bill Zars / Daily Herald via AP
Terry Bessen of Schaumburg clears a sidewalk at the School District 25 offices in Arlington Heights, Ill. on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. "It has been a great winter so far but were were due for some snow," said Bessen.
Updated 8:15 p.m. ET
Snow was expected to continue through Friday, with accumulations reaching 6 to 12 inches in parts of Maine, according to Accuweather.com. The snow was set to push farther north, spreading across the rest of Maine later on Thursday.
In the Midwest, snowfall totals climbed up to half a foot across areas of Wisconsin and Michigan by mid-afternoon with snow coming down in parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana as well.
Cold fronts moving in from the north on Thursday made for the first icy blast across the Midwest and Northeast this winter, with parts of Connecticut seeing their first snow since October and snow-starved Chicago hit with hundreds of flight cancellations.
"This is a pretty potent storm and covers a wide area," NBC TODAY's weather anchor Al Roker warned.
Some Northeast airports saw flight delays, and airlines at Chicago's airports canceled more than 425 flights by Thursday afternoon.
At O'Hare, more than 325 flights were canceled, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Southwest Airlines canceled all flights in and out of Midway International Airport, totaling more than 100 flights or 25 percent of the airport's flights.
Frank Polich / Reuters
American Airlines jets taxi to and from the gate at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Thursday.
The snow also contributed to hundreds of accidents and at least three deaths on Missouri and Iowa roads.
Up to 3 inches fell overnight in Connecticut, the first since an early October snowstorm, NBC Connecticut reported.
Kansas City, Mo., also saw about an inch of snow overnight as a system moved into the Midwest.
The Weather Channel said winter was making "a roaring comeback" across the country after weeks of mild weather.
Up to 8 inches of snow was forecast for Chicago, and even more for neighboring northwest Indiana, NBC Chicago reported. An ugly evening commute was expected in the Chicago area, where 465 snow-fighting trucks were called in.
A winter storm is expected to drop up to 9 inches of snow in New Hampshire. The Weather Channel's Eric Fisher reports.
Snow could be falling at an inch an hour by afternoon in the Chicago area, the National Weather Service said in a warning, and wind gusts up to 35 mph could make it feel like 10 below by Friday morning.
For Illinois, Thursday marked the first significant snowfall in most parts in 11 months. Records for warm temps have been set in recent weeks across the state, including Wednesday in Rockford, which saw 57 degrees -- besting the 50 on Jan. 11, 1980.
As for the Northeast, New England should see 6-9 inches of snow in many areas, and isolated areas could get a foot.
In New Hampshire, hundreds of schools were closed or delayed due to snow.
"A day like today, it's really the travel issues," said Ed Murdough, a facility administrator at the New Hampshire Department of Education. "We don't want students standing out waiting for the bus when it's slippery and buses would have a hard time getting where they need to be."
The Midwest is bracing for its first significant snow of the season, with some areas of Wisconsin and Illinois set to get nearly a foot of the white stuff. NBC's Al Roker reports.
Parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts saw slushy snow early Thursday, making for a messy commute.
The snow is expected to even stretch as far south as Nashville, Tenn., where a forecast of up to a half inch led to a cancellation of all afterschool activities Thursday.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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