Winter officially arrives Monday -- but it jumped the gun on the East Coast, where a record-setting storm brought as much as two feet of snow and was blamed for at least five deaths, thousands of traffic accidents, closed airports and roads, power outages and nearly deserted stores on the weekend before Christmas.
Travelers continue to suffer the consequences.
Airports closed or severely hampered during the storm tried to rebound after many air travelers woke up Sunday on terminal floors. But open seats were scarce after thousands of canceled or delayed flights, and massive delays raged on.
In some cases, it seemed airlines couldn't promise everyone would be home for Christmas.
College student Marisa Morin, 19, spoke to ABC News this morning after she was delayed more than 25 hours at Washington's Reagan National Airport.
"The latest is that they cancelled my 9:30 for this morning and they've put me on a 3:30 p.m. or a 9:00," she said. "They said that the likelihood of getting out is probably slim just because they have to clear all the runways here. ... It's going to keep on going like that: They're going [to] put me on the next flights until one lucky flight actually leaves."
Reagan National reopened for flights at 12:30 p.m., but Morin had lost patience. Instead, the Georgetown University freshman, aiming to get home to New Hampshire for the holidays, said she got "the last ticket" on an Amtrak train to Boston.
Even airports outside the storm zone were affected by the East Coast's woes.
Jacob Shirk, stuck at Chicago O'Hare International Airport Saturday, was told to stay put for the rest of the night.
"When I first got in, they gave me a toothbrush and just said, 'Get comfortable,'" Shirk said.
Twelve states from North Carolina to Maine were hit by what they're calling the "Blizzard of '09." In addition to dumping record amounts of snow for December up and down the eastern seaboard, the storm unleashed wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour in some areas.
Philadelphia got 23.2 inches of snow, the second-biggest single snowfall there ever, according to The Associated Press.
Today, Washington, D.C., was reeling from the largest one-day December snowfall in history, with totals of 16 inches to two feet in the region falling Saturday.
Even on Monday, federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., area will be closed, and only emergency personnel and some Telework employees were being asked to report to their jobs, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced.
Snowfalls of nearly two feet or more were reported in areas as disparate as Robbinsville, N.C.; Virginia; West Virginia; Maryland; southern New Jersey; West Greenwich, R.I.; Bourne, Mass.; and parts of New York's Long Island, the National Weather Service reported.
New York City got 10.9 inches of snow in Central Park and 14.5 inches at JFK airport, apparently amounting to its largest snowfall in several years.
The storm was "exiting the Northeast" at 4 p.m., but winter weather advisories remained in effect along the Maine coast, according to the National Weather Service.
The timing could not be worse for many, with Christmas only five days away and retailers already struggling. And the weather snarled the travel plans of people flying home for Christmas.