First Day of Winter Hits Hard

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WASHINGTON -- The wintry weather is causing flight cancellations and delays are expected to continue through Christmas.

Airports on both coasts are still dealing with backups from weekend storms. And with more winter weather in the forecast, airlines are encouraging passengers to pack patience in the coming days.

Things have not been much better on the highways. Icy roads and massive pileups in the Midwest have injured dozens of travelers.

From Seattle to Syracuse

The first official day of winter rolled in with a punch, leaving a blanket of snow, ice and a slushy mess from Seattle to Syracuse.

Much of the snowfall has finally ended in New England, but some of the northernmost parts are buried underneath ten inches to two-feet of snow.

In New Hampshire, where an ice storm knocked out power more than a week ago, utility crews work around the clock to help thousands still in the dark and cold.

"It's really close back-to-back," said one state highway worker. "The men are tired, but we're sending them out."

In the Midwest, blizzard-like conditions made for dangerous driving.

"We are still seeing rollovers, spinouts and people going into ditches," said the Minnesota's Department of Transportation's Ken Barnard.

One man died in a 30-car pile-up on Interstate 94 in Michigan, while another accident in Wisconsin sent eight people to the hospital.

Air Travel

The weather isn't just affecting traffic on the road, but air travel as well.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport alone canceled about 150 flights Sunday.

The timing of the winter storms couldn't be any worse for retailers with christmas just days away.

Store traffic was down in some parts of the country, where many would-be shoppers decided facing the snow and ice and bone-chilling cold weren't worth the sales.

The International Council of Shopping Centers expects stores to post their worst holiday performance since 1969, predicting as much as one percent decline in spite of bargain basement deals to lure customers in.

"They'll be a difference in sales, but I think it's going to be to the detriment of the bottom line," said Deloitte's Seema Pajula.

"They're not going to drive the bottom line, what they're doing is they're doing anything they can to drive inventory out. Now is desperate times," she continued.

It's desperate times for consumers, too.

"I try to get to be a little tighter with my money, said one shopper.  "I watch everything you know, but Christmastime is the time of giving."

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