A powerful blizzard battered the northeastern and southeastern parts of the United States on Thursday, leaving three people dead in North Carolina, The New York Times reported quoting Governor Roy Cooper.

More than 80,000 homes and businesses were also without electricity in the country, Reuters reported. The US National Weather Service measured wind gusts of more than 70 miles (113 kilometres) per hour.

The Boston area of Massachusetts state was buried under 12 inches of snow, and New Jersey under a foot and a half, Reuters said. Nearly 500 members of the US National Guard, a reserve military force, were deployed on the East Coast for emergency relief and rescue efforts, including 200 in New York. In Boston, firefighters attempted to rescue motorists from flooded streets

“If anyone wants to question global warming, just see where the flood zones are,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said.

The blizzard led to over 5,000 flights being cancelled across the country. New York City’s two main airports halted flights. Passenger train operator Amtrak ran reduced service in the northeast.

“This is a serious, serious storm,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. “We expect tough conditions for days to come, particularly in terms of cold.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Westchester and Long Island areas in New York City. Governor Chris Christie declared a similar emergency in New Jersey.

Schools in New York City remained closed on Thursday but are expected to open on Friday, The New York Times said.

The storm – referred to by some weather experts as a “bomb cyclone” – is the result of a rapid fall in barometric pressure. The New York Times quoted unidentified officials warning of subzero temperatures and wind chills for several days to come. Cold weather in the US has killed at least 14 people over the last few days, Reuters said.