The story was the same from the Midwest to Canada last week, written in the wind on a blanket of snow that disrupted the travel plans of clients homeward bound from a holiday visit or eager to greet the new year with a vacation trip to a sunny clime.

A quick check of the weather map over the second-busiest travel period of the year shows the following:

In Chicago, nearly two feet of snow snarled the usually unflappable O'Hare, while at Toronto's Pearson -- winter storms are hardly an unfamiliar phenomenon there -- harried travelers were stopped in their frozen tracks when hundreds of flights were canceled.

Detroit's Metro Airport, like O'Hare a Midwest hub, also was blasted by the blizzard, while in western New York would-be travelers were left slipping and sliding in the wake of a lake-effect whiteout that paralyzed Buffalo Niagara Airport.

In the New York area, where a torrential downpour flooded access roads and played havoc with surface transportation, those sodden souls who somehow made their wet and weary way to Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports found their perseverance rewarded with postponed or scratched connections and open-ended wait times that turned a dreary day into a long night.

In sum, a tough time for travelers but one made somewhat easier by resourceful and conscientious retailers who, themselves, braved the elements to open agencies closed for the holidays or, snowbound, manned their home phones to handle calls from stranded clients.

We are not suggesting that travel agents put down their snow shovels and pat themselves on the back -- rebooking, rescheduling, coming to the aid and comfort of clients is, after all, their business. Nevertheless, it should not go unremarked that when airline phone lines are jammed and uncaring airline clerks tell trapped travelers there is no way out, the pros come through.

They always have and they always will.

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