Winter Weather Upends Holiday Travel Plans

PHOTO: A truck makes its way down a snow covered Interstate I-35/I-80, Dec. 20, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa.PlayCharlie Neibergall/AP Photo
WATCH Winter Weather Causes Holiday Travel Problems

With snow, wind and rain in the Midwest, South, Northeast and Pacific Northwest disrupting holiday travel plans days before Christmas, airports were brimming tales of frustration and fiasco.

As of 4:30 p.m. ET today, there were 654 flight cancellations and 8,331 delays on the day, reported. New York-area airports reported delays of from one and three hours because of wind. San Francisco was also having high winds, with airport delays ranging from 30 minutes to three hours.

New York-area airports canceled at least 195 flights today.

In Chicago, rain turned to snow before tapering off today, so less than a half an inch of snow accumulated at O'Hare Airport.

However, on Thursday, Chicago's airports reported 646 cancellations.

For information on flight delays and cancellations, please visit FlightStats, Inc.

Among those affected at O'Hare were the Apter family, whose flight aboard American Airlines was cancelled Thursday evening. Their nine months of planning a family trip to Peru for Christmas were ruined.

"It's frustrating," said Leslie Apter, the mother of the family. "We're going home. We're not happy."

Greg Apter, the father, spent much of night trying to find a solution.

"We spent, what, six hours last night trying to work different ways to get through Miami to Peru," he said, "and there [are] just no connections -- not until the 25th."

The Saturday before Christmas is typically one of the busiest travel days, with 200,000 travelers at Chicago's O'Hare airport and 66,000 at Midway, according to the city.

Southwest Airlines said it would be ceasing operations at Midway Airport altogether at 4:30 p.m. CT until Saturday.

Ripple effects on travel from Thursday's storm were felt all the way to Los Angeles.

And there was more bad news today up the West Coast. Heavy rain drenched the Pacific Northwest, causing landslides in Oregon and shutting down rail service from in parts of Washington state after 11 landslides in three days.

The Thursday storm that caused all that travel unhappiness ripped scaffolding from buildings in New York City today, rocked rough waves across the Great Lakes, and left far-from-perfect roads for the 83 million people expected to hit them this weekend.

Lashing winds and blowing snow stretched from Nebraska to Michigan overnight, shutting down major highways across the region as drivers struggled to stay on the road.

At least 1,000 road accidents were reported overnight, including one north of Des Moines, Iowa, where at least 25 vehicles slammed into each other. There were so many accidents in Iowa that the National Guard was called in to help motorists, including pre-teen Isaac Wilson.

"The U.S. Army came and put us in this really fancy truck, and we got blankets and snacks," Wilson of Millard, Iowa, told ABC News.

Up to 20 inches of snow fell in Madison, Wis., while up to 14 inches fell in Iowa. Madison, Dubuque, Iowa, and Des Moines, Iowa, all had daily record snowfall Thursday. The University of Wisconsin cancelled some final exams.

In recent days, two tornadoes reportedly touched down in Arkansas, while one was reported in Alabama and another in Florida. The most significant damage was from a tornado in Mobile, Ala., with winds of 86 to 110 mph and a path length of 7 miles.

Severe storms moved offshore today and the Southeast and the Gulf Coast were expected to dry out.

This weekend was expected to be much quieter for almost everyone -- except for that storm on the West Coast.

ABC News' Daniel Clark and Max Golembo contributed to this report.