Ice-coated power lines throughout the Midwest caused massive power outages. Officials warned of dangerous conditions with trees weighed down by ice and falling on power lines. Most power lines are only built to hold a half inch of ice.
FEMA was standing by with generators and supplies if governors asked for their help.
"The real heroes right now are these local responders that are still going out in the storms, rescuing people ... the local department of transportation as well as National Guard units," Fugate said.
While the Northeast is no stranger to snow, this is the seventh storm to hit the region in the past 35 days. The string started with the Dec. 26 blizzard that left the region's transportation systems crippled.
Last week's snowstorm broke a record in New York City -- pushing the monthly total to more than 50 inches -- the snowiest January in more than a century. The average snow total for New York is about 21 inches.
ABC News' Sam Champion, Barbara Pinto, Ryan Owens, Linsey Davis, John Berman, Chris Bury, Seniboye Tienabeso, Susan Caraher and the Associated Press contributed to this report.