NEW YORK - A winter storm snarled travel in the Northeast yesterday, dropping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.

More than a foot of snow was expected in some areas, including New York and Boston, where an aquarium had to protect - of all things - penguin ice sculptures from the elements.

More than 1,400 flights had been canceled out of the New York City area's three major airports alone, and more cancellations were expected today.

For many people, the storm's timing was perfect - the day after Christmas, a Sunday, no school for at least a week.

But Colleen and Graham James of Montclair, N.J., were at Newark Airport with their two young children and their dachshund, trying to reach family in Iowa, and their connecting flight to Chicago was delayed more than 2 1/2 hours.

"We left the day after Christmas to avoid the Christmas craze," Colleen James said. "I guess that didn't work out so well."

Graham James was resigning himself to postponing their trip a month. "Now we're worried about just driving home because of the crazy snow," he said.

Airlines canceled flights throughout the Northeast and at airports in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and the Carolinas. They expected more cancellations today, but were trying to rebook passengers and hoped to resume normal operations tomorrow.

U.S. Airways already had canceled 110 of today's flights by yesterday afternoon; spokesman Jim Olson said that was to try to keep passengers and crews from getting stranded at airports.

Amtrak canceled train service from New York to Maine yesterday evening, after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. Bus companies canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers.

The Northeast received the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for yesterday and today, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times. A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.