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Biggest winter storm of season takes aim at Northeast, threatening foot of snow

There's a travel mess ahead from the Midwest to New England where some areas will see up to eight inches of snow. Meteorologist Janice Huff reports.

The Northeast braced Saturday for a storm stretching over 1,000 miles that could dump at least a foot of snow on parts of New England.

Utilities and airports were on high alert as the system moved from Ohio into the Northeast, threatening to affect travel and shoppers heading to stores in the lead-up to Christmas.

The National Weather Service forecast 6 to 12 inches of snow over the weekend in New England, with 14 inches possible along the coast of Maine. Areas north and west of New York City and interior Pennsylvania could be blanketed with at least 8 inches, and about a half a foot was forecast in parts of Ohio.

Earlier the National Weather Service called the whole thing a “complex storm system” stretching from Missouri to the northern tip of New York.

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Matt Nighswander / NBC News

Snow falls on skaters Saturday morning in New York's Rockefeller Center.

Metro-North, the commuter railroad that serves New York, its suburbs, Connecticut and Long Island, warned customers that it might reduce or stop service depending on the weather.

Pennsylvania pushed two state high school football championship games back by a day, to Sunday from Saturday. And Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for Logan airport, in Boston, told The Associated Press: “At some point, we’ll start calling in more staff.”

The snow and ice in the Great Lakes region was the result of a low-pressure system colliding with Arctic air. By Saturday, forecasters said, a second and more powerful low churning up the East Coast would take over and produce the heaviest show.

“This next system is really going to be a very significant storm for a lot of the country,” said Carl Parker, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. “It’s going to grab up plenty of moisture off the Atlantic, throw it back and into the Northeast.”

By Sunday evening, the bulk of the precipitation should be over, moving into Canada and offshore, although few lingering snow showers can't be ruled out, mainly in Maine, forecasters said.

Around 2-5 inches of snow is expected to drop in parts of the Midwest Friday and will continue through the weekend after another strong weather system strikes. NBC's Dylan Dreyer reports.

In the Midwest, the snow and a persistent deep freeze have been causing problems for agriculture. Some river shipping channels are frozen and are expected to stay that way, slowing the movement of grain.

And the combination of snow and bitter cold is slowing the movement by truck of grain and livestock, John Dee, an agricultural meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring, told Reuters.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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