Winter's First Day Packs a Wallop

From the Northwest to New England, temperatures are plunging, snow is piling up, and for travelers -- dreams of a holiday getaway have become nightmares.

Messy winter weather across much of the country is not making it easy today for travelers heading home for the holidays, particularly in the Northeast.

As of 6:30 p.m. ET, flight information from the Federal Aviation Administration illustrated that flight delays remained at the New York area's LaGuardia and Newark airports but were not significant at the nation's other airports. At LaGuardia, arriving flights are delayed by an average of nearly two hours. At Newark, arriving flights are delayed by an average of one hour, 25 minutes.

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Many of those who encountered travel headaches during the weekend may still be navigating the airports today as they make alternate arrangements after canceled flights.

In the Midwest, for instance, AirTran advised its customers today that they may continue to see flights affected in the next few days. The carrier said travelers booked for flights Tuesday and Wednesday to, from or through Chicago and Milwaukee can make changes to their itineraries without penalties if they alter their plans this week.

Delta also has waived change fees for travelers venturing through Seattle and Portland between today and Friday because of winter storms in the Northwest.

"I was at the airport for 12 hours and they kept telling us we were going to get on and we never got on," one frustrated traveler said at the Seattle-Tacoma International airport.

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Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed on both coasts this weekend, stranding thousands of holiday travelers at airports across the country. Entire families were sleeping on floors.

"There was a lot of people sleeping on the floor. It was a hard, cold floor, and the doors kept opening," Rebecca Gray, 30, of South Berwick, Maine, said this morning from Reagan National Airport, where she'd spent the night with about 250 people, including her 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. "There were babies last night sleeping out there. Women and children shouldn't have been left like that while people said, 'it's not our problem' and went home.'"

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Meantime, arctic air brought with it subzero temperatures today — the first full day of winter.

The record-breaking cold streak combined with the snow in Seattle resulted in several airlines running out of de-icer in Seattle.

"It's been canceled. You're better off going home and trying to rebook from there," an airport employee said to frustrated travelers facing the worst series of cancellations in 30 years.

The Emerald City suffered from a transportation breakdown on roadways too, thanks to ice-coated hilly streets that left cars sliding and spinning their wheels.

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"You can't get moving and then you end up creating a slick and then you're stuck," said one man.

Greyhound bus service was at a standstill, leaving bewildered passengers stranded.

"I mean this is outrageous. Nobody should have to go through this. Nobody should be dumped on the side of the road in a place we didn't know where we are at, or I don't even know where I am at," a Greyhound passenger said.

With only 27 plows, Seattle is ill-prepared to deal with back-to-back snow storms. The roads were frozen solid. Snowed-in, one couple was forced to walk to work.

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