Late winter roars in with 1 in 3 Americans under weather alert

The Farmer's Almanac says March usually blows in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. But this year it seems to be the opposite.

Less than two weeks ago, the nation's capital was enjoying 80-degree temperatures.

Now, Washington D.C., and much of the Northeast are about to get walloped with heavy snows from a major winter storm Monday and Tuesday, the National Weather Service says.

Forecasters expect Washington will get off easy, with 5-10 inches of snow.

Boston and the New York metro area could get up to 18 inches, forecasters say. Shoppers began tweeting photos of long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores.

Just one week before the official start of spring, the weather service issued a blizzard warning for northeastern New Jersey, southeastern New York and southern Connecticut. Cities under winter storm warnings include Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Travelers should expect delays. By 11 a.m. Monday, airlines had canceled 1,241 Tuesday flights out of six large airports in the storm's path, and 1,106 arrivals, according to FlightAware. (Keep up with the latest cancellations here.)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated the State Emergency Operations Center for Monday evening. State agencies have already positioned personnel, assets, and state stockpile resources -- including sandbags, generators and pumps -- to key areas.

Cuomo urged commuters to drive carefully and avoid unnecessary travel. Motorists, especially tractor trailers, should be prepared for road closures across the state.

It's a winter wonderland on social media

From the Midwest to New England, Americans used social media to share images of the severe weather.

An Instagram post captured a crewman at Chicago's Midway International Airport de-icing an early flight.

De-icing before an early flight. #chicagowinter #springforward

A post shared by Curtis Kuhn (@curtiskuhn) on

Also in the Windy City, the Chicago Loop sculpture made a striking image in the snow.

❄❄⛄⛄❄⛄❄⛄❄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄⛄🌀🌀💟💟

A post shared by Marcin Beliczynski (@marcinb38hairstylist) on

On Twitter, the storm (dubbed "Stella" by the Weather Channel) generated memes of Marlon Brando despairingly calling for "Stella!" in the classic movie "A Streetcar Named Desire."

No 'year without winter' after all

Ahead of the storm, bone-chilling temperatures persist across the region. Highs in New York should remain below freezing, forecasters said.

"Nearly one in every three people in the US are under a winter weather alert of some sort," CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said. "This all comes after what seemed like it would be the year without a winter."

"We have two low-pressure systems essentially coming together to create a potentially significant Nor'easter," CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.

"The first low begins in the Midwest and progresses east to the Mid-Atlantic region. The second low begins off the coast of Florida and moves north along the east coast and meets up with the first low around Washington D.C."

"Since January first, we have seen over 9,000 record high temperatures set in the US -- compare that to only 1,300 record low temperatures this winter, a 9 to 1 ratio favoring warmth," Javaheri said.

Despite the advance of colder temperatures across the Eastern US, last month was one of the warmest on record, the National Weather Service tweeted.