More than 2,500 flights across the country were canceled, with airports and passengers in New York, Boston and Chicago bearing the brunt. Most of the flights not scrubbed were experiencing delays.
(See the latest air travel status here.)
Commuters across the region creeped to work. Making matters worse, a "significant" power outage crippled service on at least three major subways lines in New York City during the early morning commute — including at Times Square, the busiest station in the busiest subway system in the country. By the end of the morning rush, the issue had been fixed, city officials said.
Schools were open in the Big Apple, despite the monstrous weather. In Brooklyn, parents trudged through the snow with their kids as crews used snowblowers to keep sidewalks around buildings clear.
Renita Stefanec, who dropped off her 7-year-old for class with her 5-year-old in tow, told Reuters that keeping schools open amid the storm is for the best.
"I prefer them to come to school because if they don't they take it away from vacation days," she told the wire service.
As for the arduous trek, Stefanec weighed the pros and cons.
"It's sloppy, it's messy, but if you live close it's doable," she said. "If it's too bad out, they just don't come. They keep the kids home. But if you're close, it's doable."
The storm packed a powerful punch as it barreled east overnight. In Kentucky, more than 21,000 people were in the dark Wednesday morning; in Arkansas, the outage total was close to 40,000.
In Missouri, many people were forced to stay overnight at work or in hotels as road conditions quickly deteriorated, NBC affiliate WGEM reported. Kansas was hardest hit, and Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of "disaster emergency" after the storm system forced the closure of many state offices and schools. In Wichita, 8.7 inches had fallen by 9 p.m. – shattering a record for the date to 1897.
Caught up in the treacherous conditions, at least two people died in a car accident and the Kansas National Guard deployed soldiers and Humvees to transport emergency and medical workers and assist stranded motorists.
And even as they faced another round of wicked weather Wednesday, many people on the East Coast were still feeling the aftershocks of Monday's dump of snow and ice.
A 73-year-old New York man was struck and killed Monday by a snowplow that was backing up on a Brooklyn street, police told NBC New York.
A 10-year-old girl also was recovering at home Tuesday after she was impaled in the back Monday by a metal rod while sledding in Jarrettsville, Md., north of Baltimore, NBC station WBAL reported.
There is better news: A third winter storm predicted for this weekend will likely not be as bad as first thought, according to Roth.
(Read more: A storm's coming…and these cities should watch out)
"We're not saying that there will be no threat, but we are becoming more confident that it won't be as big a deal," he said. "There will be more snow for the Northeast on Saturday and Sunday but at this point it does not look very significant."