Blinding snow whipped up by powerful winds pummeled the eastern United States on Saturday, in one of the strongest winter storms in years.

Major cities like New York and Boston bore the brunt of the blizzard, which the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed intensified Saturday into a "bomb cyclone". characterized by the explosive power of rapid drops in atmospheric pressure, AFP reports.

The heaviest-hit parts of New York and Massachusetts received two feet (61 centimeters) of snow by early evening, with more than 95,000 homes in Massachusetts reported without power.

Cold weather stretched as far south as Florida, where the NWS warned of "scattered to isolated falling iguanas from trees" as plunging temperatures temporarily paralyzed the large lizards.

Residents in towns and cities across the eastern seaboard were urged to avoid all unnecessary travel, with additional snowfall expected to be heaviest across New England.

One woman was killed in Long Island and was found dead in her car by a snowplow operator, according to officials.

In New York City, Central Park was covered in 7.5 inches of snow and regional train lines were partially shut down.

New York and the neighboring state of New Jersey plus Virginia, Maryland and Delaware declared emergencies for all or part of the states.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the storm's perils were not over yet, warning residents Saturday that "the most dangerous phase of the storm is now."

In Boston, where a snow emergency was declared, Mayor Michelle Wu tweeted a reminder Saturday "to stay off the roads if you can."

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said there had been "serious whiteout conditions for most of the midday today," and that there was still "pretty limited visibility out there."

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 flights were canceled on Saturday and just over 1,000 flights have already been canceled for Sunday.