Nightly News   |  January 21, 2012

States battle snowstorms, frigid temperatures

After a mild start to winter, much of the country is now covered in ice and snow and is dealing with plunging temperatures. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

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>>> we're back now with a winter blast hitting millions of americans from seattle to boston. after a mild start to winter , much of the country is now covered in ice and snow. a lot of folks dealing with plunging temperatures. nbc's michelle franzen is here in new york tonight.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. this is the heaviest snow that the northeast has seen since that wallop last october. winter finally arriving after it ushers in after a mild and slow start . it left the mark from the midwest to the northeast but parts of new england saw nearly a foot of snow. aside from a few accidents like this overturned tractor-trailer on interstate 70 in pennsylvania, winter 's better late than never arrival was a welcome sight.

>> we are really happy to be out here because we have been missing the snow.

>> reporter: in new york , just over four inches of snow blanketed streets and parks. just enough and just right for sledding and snowballs.

>> truth is i don't love the snow, but with three kids they have been really, really itching for us to have snow.

>> reporter: the snow first hit in the midwest yesterday. in chicago, it made for a messy and treacherous commute. it is a far cry from last winter when storm after storm after storm left record snowfall. this time last season in new york city , crews had to bring in special machines to melt the 31 inches of snow that had already piled up. this season just over seven inches of snow has fallen in the city. that lack of snow is also evident in new england and the upper midwest . meanwhile, northern california and the pacific northwest are getting hit with more rain and wind than snow. except in and around seattle where rain on top of this past week's rare snowstorm created a slushy mess. forecasters say the missing ingredient this winter has been cold temperatures that have finally moved in.

>> this year we could be looking at a flip-flop where we start mild and there's time to catch up as we head to february and march. it's not over yet.

>> reporter: so far this winter has left most people wanting more.

>> i'm looking forward to a few more snowy days, but hopefully winter doesn't come with a vengeance now that it's come so late.

>> reporter: and this storm still managed to cause quite a few delays and cancellations at airports around the country. nearly a thousand cancellations just today. on top of that, just 300 alone in the new york area and on top of the nearly 700 in chicago yesterday.