- National Guard sergeant describes her storm-battered home: "It was just destroyed"
- Boston mayor: "We're not out of this yet"
- "This is nothing like we feared it would be," New York's mayor says of the impact on his city
(CNN)Sgt. Jennifer Bruno knew the blizzard battering New England might be brutal.
So as the storm hit, she spent Monday night at a friend's house. When she returned to her coastal home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, Tuesday, she discovered a devastating scene.
Rocks were everywhere, she said.
"Part of the roof collapsed, the wall, my door was missing," she told CNN's AC360. "It was just destroyed."
The Massachusetts National Guard sergeant and Iraq war veteran cried when she caught the first glimpse of what happened. Then she went back inside to get her uniforms, a sword she got in Iraq and a cross with scripture on it that once hung on her wall.
"I've been through a lot, and that was just more than I thought would have happened," she said. "(I'll) just take it one day at a time."
As crews started surveying storm damage and clearing streets, officials warned that the potential for record-setting snowfall remains as stormy weather wallops New England. But Bruno and other residents of coastal areas faced another more menacing threat: storm surge flooding.
On Massachusetts' South Shore, the ocean roared inland to flood the Brant Rock Esplanade, lined with homes and businesses. Marshfield's police department posted a photo of what it called a "major seawall breach (that) caused structural damage" to an unoccupied home. Authorities in neighboring Duxbury showed a deck blown yards away from a home. And not far away in Scituate, slushy ice, seawater and debris clogged streets as waves came crashing toward shore.
'We're not out of this yet'
In Boston, where about 2 feet of snow had fallen, the city's mayor said there was still work to be done.
"We're not out of this yet. We're trying to get ahead of it," Mayor Marty Walsh said. "We just keep plowing."
The hardest-hit area -- Auburn, Massachuetts -- got 32.5 inches of snow. And it hasn't stopped yet.
"This is a very significant storm, and in many parts of Massachusetts, I think, you could call it, in fact, a historic event," Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters.
Massachusetts wasn't the only state getting hit hard Tuesday. The National Weather Service also reported about 20 inches of snow in Portland, Maine; 32 inches in Hudson, New Hampshire; and 30 inches in Orient on New York's Long Island.
On the northern edge of the storm in Maine, Rockland resident Steve DePasa said at 1 p.m. that up to 15 inches of snow was already on the ground, and "we're expected to get another 10 inches."
So what can you do in the meantime, besides pray that the power stays on?
"It's just go out and clean up a little bit so you can," said DePasa, a CNN iReporter. "Then wait a few hours and do it again."
The good news? Most people seemed to have heeded the warnings about the storm, which was forecast as "crippling" and "potentially historic," by stocking up and staying off the roads. If you go through this every year, after all, there's a good chance you'll know the drill.
"During these storms, everybody has to hunker down and just be safe," said Bob Connors from Plum Island, on Massachusetts' North Shore. "We've become pretty proficient at that."
N.Y. mayor: 'We've dodged the bullet'
As the storm approached, Marge Winski hoped for the best.
It's not the first time she's braced for bad weather as the caretaker of a lighthouse in Montauk, New York. Riding out Superstorm Sandy was terrifying, she said. This storm, which packed powerful winds, also had it's scary moments, she said.
"I was just praying I didn't get sick, or the roof didn't blow off," she said. "What was I going to do? You know no one's coming to get you."
But Winski, like many residents of New York and New Jersey, was breathing a sigh of relief on Tuesday.
A day earlier, officials warned the storm could turn 58 million people's lives upside down. Seven states, from New Jersey to New Hampshire, declared states of emergency. School was canceled. Public transit shut down. Businesses closed, suggesting a far-reaching economic impact in one of America's busiest commercial regions.
But by midmorning, snow wasn't even falling in New York City. By then, travel bans in New Jersey and New York -- even places like Long Island's Islip, which got more than 20 inches of snow -- had been lifted.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called all the warning and preparations "a better-safe-than-sorry scenario."
"We've dodged the bullet," he said. "This is nothing like we feared it would be."
But for some in the state, the storm proved dangerous.
A 17-year-old died after he hit something while snow-tubing Monday night in Huntington, New York, Suffolk County's Tim Sini said. An 83-year-old man who suffered from dementia was found frozen to death in his backyard in the same Long Island county.
Blocked in, hunkered down
The forecast even improved for Boston. Once expected to see up to 30 inches of snow, Logan International Airport had received 24.4 inches by midnight Tuesday.
Still, 2 feet of snow isn't anything to scoff at.
Just ask all those who had their cars snowed in, their front doors blocked and their backyards littered with branches Tuesday.
"The worst part is the steady winds, I think they were approaching 50 mph," said Nantucket Police Chief William Pittman.
The entire island, where 15,000 people live, lost power during the storm. But that didn't stop the doctors and nurses at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where Cayden Keith Moore was born at the height of the blizzard early Tuesday.
As she cradled her newborn boy, mom Danielle Smith said she was doing well, thanks to the generator keeping the hospital warm.
"It's definitely better to be here than at home with no power," she said.
Thousands of flights canceled
If you're trying to escape this wintry mess quickly, don't count on it.
Traffic crawled on everything from side roads to highways -- including the Massachusetts Turnpike, which was closed to traffic as of early Tuesday afternoon -- and many public transit systems shut down.
More than 4,700 flights in and out of the United States had been canceled as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, the flight-tracking website Flightaware.com reported. That's on top of 2,800 scrubbed Monday. Hundreds more have already been called off for Wednesday.
Amtrak was also affected, suspending Northeast Regional and Acela Express services between New York and Boston for Tuesday because of the weather.
From stocking up to snowball fights
The storm warnings seemed to impress even the most jaded Northeasterner, as groceries flew off store shelves from Brooklyn to Bangor.
Still, it's not like everyone was shaking in their snow boots.
As Steve Nogueira, a retired meteorologist who lives in Taunton, Massachusetts, said, "We've done it before."
In the coastal city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hundreds accepted a Facebook invitation to a community snowball fight -- one that organizer Devin Murphy joked is in the proud tradition dating back to around 1624, when the city was first settled.
Fresh off snowblowing his driveway, Jim Robins estimated about 2 feet of light, fluffy snow had fallen outside his home in Dover, New Hampshire. That's hardly a dusting, but it's also not surprising when you live in New England.
"Sure, that's a lot, but I have tons of family in Buffalo and they were dealing with 6-10 feet of (snow) at the start of the season," Robins said. "...We will weather this like the New Englanders we are."