A monster snowstorm slamming the East Coast pushed the mayor of New York, the country's biggest city, and the governor of New Jersey to declare states of emergency.

In the Garden State, Gov. Phil Murphy closed government offices and major vaccination centers. New Jersey Transit, the commuter rail system, suspended service. 

“The safety of residents and workers is our utmost priority," Murphy said Sunday, in issuing his directive. "Please follow all weather-related guidance and stay off the roads in order to allow access for emergency personnel.”

Snow started falling on Sunday afternoon and gained strength overnight. Snow fell at least two inches an hour. Forecasts called for up to 18 inches by Tuesday afternoon, when the system should move out.

New York City was at a standstill Monday morning as residents hunkered down, waiting for as much as 22 inches.

In his declaration, which lasts three days, Mayor Bill de Blasio restricted all non-essential travel, outdoor dining and called off all in-person classes for public school students. 

“Make no mistake: this storm will bring heavy snowfall, and it will make travel dangerous in every neighborhood in our city,” de Blasio said at a briefing.“That could get a lot worse.” 

Snow from what forecasters are calling winter storm Olena is expected from central Tennessee to northern Maine. Nashville is going to see only light snow, but central Maine should see about 11 inches. Washington, D.C.,  was getting light snow mixed with rain Monday morning. 

The system will clear out by late week, followed by a slight warmup.

The Washington Monument is seen from the snow-covered National Mall in Washington, DC on January 31, 2021 as the capital region is under a winter storm warning for an expected five or more inches (12.7 centimeters) of snow The Washington Monument is seen from the snow-covered National Mall in Washington, DC on January 31, 2021 as the capital region is under a winter storm warning for an expected five or more inches (12.7 centimeters) of snow Photo: AFP / Eva HAMBACH