Seattle - Winter storms walloped much of the northern stretches of the United States on Sunday, leaving holiday travelers stranded and causing power outages as blizzards and freezing rain struck parts of the East and West.

The second winter storm in three days blew across the U.S. Northeast on Sunday, the official start of winter. It delayed flights and snarled traffic on the final weekend day before the Christmas holiday.

In the West, the Seattle area and other parts of Washington state were hit on Saturday night, with the heaviest blast in a week of snow storms.

As 5 to 9 inches of snow fell, scattered power cuts were reported and whiteout conditions from heavy snows and high winds forced the closure of Snoqualmie Pass, a key route over the mountains east of Seattle on highway I-90.

Conditions there were "just a complete whiteout blizzard" on the pass, Washington State Patrol trooper Dan McDonald told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper via cell phone from his patrol car. "I've never seen anything like this. The side winds are probably easy 70 mph. They're taking us off the road."

On Sunday, freezing rain moved in and left a crust of ice on top of the snow, making driving especially treacherous, and a further 2 inches of snow was expected. Thousands of people were stranded at Sea-Tac airport due to flight cancellations.

Precipitation in the New York metropolitan area was largely confined to rain, washing away much of the snow and ice that was dumped on the region during Friday's storm.

But low visibility and winds spelled delays at the three major New York region airports of one to two hours on arriving and departing flights, authorities said.

A wind advisory and plummeting temperatures on Sunday night were expected to create more delays, forecasters said. Police reported numerous fender-benders on area roads, causing traffic jams especially in areas near major shopping outlets.

Area retailers reported that moderate temperatures brought out shoppers scrambling to finish Christmas purchases, local media reported. Despite fears of more snow and ice, precipitation was limited to rain.

By midday the first-day-of-winter storm had largely moved out of the area and was heading northeast, where airport delays of some four hours were reported at Boston's Logan International airport.

Up to a foot of snow was expected in areas west of Boston including Worcester. New Englanders faced long delays and cancellations at regional airports.

"It is snowing like hell here," said Jim Van Dongen, a spokesman for New Hampshire's Emergency Management Department. Roughly 1,000 utility crews were working across the state to restore power to 17,000 customers left in the dark. In Massachusetts fewer than 6,000 people were without power, the state's Emergency Management Department said.

Boston's Logan International Airport, the region's largest, was open but dozens of flights were canceled and there are lengthy delays, Matt Brelis a spokesman for the airport said.