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Winter Storms Frustrate Holiday Travel Nationwide

Travelers wait in line Monday for their flights at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. i

Travelers wait in line Monday for their flights at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Travelers wait in line Monday for their flights at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Travelers wait in line Monday for their flights at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Bitter cold temperatures and snow have placed the northern half of the nation in a deep freeze, affecting travel in planes, trains and automobiles just as the holiday season gets under way.

Some of the worst winter storms on record have cut a swath from the Pacific Northwest to New England. Across the country, tens of thousands of people are without power after freezing rain and strong winds caused transmission lines to come down.

Heavy snowfall in western Oregon has caused traffic to come to a near standstill along Interstate 5, and state highways through the northern edge of the Coast Range are closed.

Amtrak's Cascades passenger train service between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia, was halted, but officials said they expected it to resume on Tuesday. Greyhound bus service in Portland and Seattle was also shut down.

At the Seattle-Tacoma airport, thousands of people have been waiting in hours-long lines to re-book canceled flights.

"There's no flights going into [Las] Vegas that has any available seating," Air Force Airman Alex James told NPR's Morning Edition.

James said he and three other Air Force buddies hope to avoid driving from Seattle to Las Vegas, where their families are preparing for the holidays.

"We leave on our deployment on the first of January," James said. "So, however long it takes us to get back from here is how much reduced our time at home is."

Alaska and Horizon airlines, the West Coast's principal carriers, resumed limited service Monday and the carriers said they hoped to resume near-normal schedules Tuesday at Seattle-Tacoma and have things normal flights by Wednesday.

In the East, the town of Eustis, Maine, got nearly 3 1/2 feet of snow. Snow and sleet — but no additional accumulation — are expected Tuesday in the Northeast.

In the nation's midsection, the situation is just as bad.

In Illinois, which has experienced subzero conditions and wind chills as low as minus 35 degrees in recent days, temperatures rose to the mid-20s Tuesday.

But with the reprieve came more snow that caused further flight delays at one of the nation's busiest airports.

More than 250 flights have been canceled at O'Hare International Airport and delays were running up to 90 minutes.

At Chicago's smaller Midway Airport, there are no cancelations but 30-minute delays were common.

More snow is expected across the upper Midwest. Michigan could get as much as a foot of snow, while ice, snow and sleet are in the forecast for Indiana, where many people have been without electricity.

Travelers have been stranded in airports as they wait for flights to resume so they can make their way to friends and families for the holidays. Routes to much of the Pacific Northwest have been canceled, and flights to the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey, have been delayed by hours.

Later Tuesday, the Mississippi Valley could get one-tenth to three-tenths of an inch of ice. Snow also was forecast for the northern Plains, and rain and sleet are possible across the southern Plains.

Gusty winds are likely across the entire central portion of the country.

Even California looks unlikely to be spared. A storm was forecast for the state late Tuesday and is expected to bring snow to the Sierra Nevada. The storm also could bring more snow to parts of the Northwest.

Temperatures in the lower 48 states on Monday ranged from a low of minus 30 degrees in Minot, N.D., to a high of 78 degrees in Miami.

From NPR and wire reports

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