CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A major winter storm is bearing down on the East Coast, providing much of the region with its biggest snowfall of the season.

And although the storm hasn’t brought much snow to the Charlotte area, cold rain and frigid temperatures have been noticed.

"It was actually colder today that yesterday (Sunday)," said Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich. "The high temperature was only 46 degrees, that's two degrees colder than yesterday when it snowed."

Nor'easter forming off the Carolinas

A powerful nor'easter was forecast to develop along the East Coast late Monday and roll through the Northeast deep into Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Heavy snow and strong winds with gusts of up to 50 mph could knock out power to thousands and snarl travel.

The impact for Charlotte is really cold temperatures, wind and likely mostly rain.

“I say likely mostly rain because some parts of the viewing area, especially the mountains and foothills, could see an icy mix before it changes to snow on the back side,” said Panovich.

Some of the beginning precipitation could be sleet, a little bit of freezing drizzle or freezing rain.

Light rain began to fall in the Charlotte area around 2 p.m. Monday, and as Panovich mentioned, temperatures remained in the mid-40's throughout the afternoon.

“As we go into tonight things really start to crank up along the East Coast,” Panovich said.

The North Carolina mountains will see a snow, sleet, freezing rain mix. It will eventually change to rain for a couple of hours before it changes back to snow.

The rain will continue through at least 7 a.m. Tuesday and there may be a brief band of snow in the Piedmont Tuesday morning.

“It’s probably not going to be a big deal, but it’s something to keep an eye on,” Panovich said.

It will be a miserable cold rain for most of the NBC Charlotte viewing area with the potential for a little bit of a wintry mix in the Piedmont late Monday night into Tuesday morning.

The weather service issued a blizzard warning for New York City and parts of northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut. More than 19 million people live in areas under a blizzard warning. Winter storm watches and warnings were also in effect all the way from the mountains of North Carolina to northern Maine, a distance of more than 1,000 miles.

"It's been a long time since I've seen an area this large with a Blizzard Warning," Panovich said. "There are whole states of New England under a Winter Storm Warning or a Blizzard Warning."

Some areas could get two feet of snow

Light snow is expected to begin late Monday night from north Virginia all the way up the East Coast and intensify overnight into early Tuesday morning. The heaviest snowfall is expected Tuesday morning through the afternoon. Some areas, particularly along the coast, could see a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow. Areas that get all snow could get blasted with 12 to 18 inches of snow, with totals reaching two feet in some areas.

Big snow totals possible for big cities

New York and Boston could get 12-18 inches; isolated amounts of up to 2 feet are possible across northeastern Massachusetts. Philadelphia was forecast to see 8-14 inches. Baltimore was looking at 6-10 inches; Washington, 4-8 inches.

Midwest snow

Snow from the storm has already fallen across the Midwest. After unloading a widespread 5 to 9 inches of snow from eastern South Dakota to southwestern Minnesota and northern Iowa on Sunday, snow was pasting portions of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan on Monday, AccuWeather said. Chicago was poised to pick up its first inch of snow since mid-December.

Air travelers, beware

More than 750 Monday flights already were canceled by 8 a.m., most related to a major storm that swept through the Midwest over the weekend. Almost 1,000 Tuesday flights also were canceled. If forecasts are accurate, it remains possible that airports such as New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Boston Logan could stop flights for much of the day Tuesday. Poor weather could extend into early Wednesday as some New England airports.

"Anybody looking to travel on Tuesday, whether by land or air, will find it difficult or impossible in many places," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines warned.

What happens next?

Sorry, spring lovers. After the storm exits, a second blast of arctic air will keep the eastern half of the nation in its clutches for the rest of the week. “Winter will hold a tight grip on the Northeast in wake of the significant snowstorm early this week,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Max Vido said. Blowing snow could also complicate road crews' work.