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Winter storm Hercules has brought blizzard-like conditions across the US east coast with up to two feet of snow seen in some parts of the country.

Over 2,300 flights have been cancelled as a result of the storm, with more expected to be delayed at New York and Boston airports with the severe weather set to continue.

Major highways were also closed overnight in New York state, while many trains were operating on a reduced service.

At least one person is known to have died as a result of the severe weather. A man working at a suburban Philadelphia salt storage facility died after a 100-foot pile of road salt fell and crushed him.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo urged people to stay safe, suggesting they only travel if necessary: "This is nothing to be trifled with," he said. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."

New Jersey governor Chris Christie also ordered all non-essential state workers to stay at home, with state offices and courthouses closed.

Temperatures across the east coast fell to below freezing. Chicago was colder than the North Pole, with temperatures reaching -19C and -15C respectively.

Meanwhile Winnipeg, in Canada, saw its coldest day for 80 years when temperatures fell to -37.9C, with a wind-chill making it feel like -48C. The Curiosity Rover on Mars recorded a maximum air temperature of -29C, the Manitoba Museum posted on Twitter.

The recently sworn in New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, said the city was working to reduce any disruption caused by the snow: "We have to get it right, no question about it. We are focused like a laser on protecting this city."

The Weather Channel said the worst of the storm should pass by the weekend, but noted it will remain bitterly cold for some time to come.