Travel Nightmares Plague East Coast After Snowstorm
CNN -- Airline passengers left stranded by a freak snowstorm that pounded the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states were waiting to get to their destinations Sunday, many after spending a restless night on cots or airport floors.

"Whatever kind of system they had, it completely and utterly broke down," said passenger Fatimah Dahandari, who spent a night in Hartford, Connecticut's Bradley International Airport while trying to get to New York. "It looks like a refugee camp in here."

More than 4 million people in at least five states were without power Sunday as the storm moved offshore. Up to five deaths, some in traffic accidents, were blamed on the storm.

Dhandari said her Boston-to-New York flight diverted to Connecticut after being told there was a problem on a runway at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and the JetBlue plane did not have enough fuel to continue circling. Early snowstorm hits Northeast Early snow causes travel woes

"We land in Connecticut and then it was one series of problems after another," she said. Her flight spent nine hours "literally sitting on the runway" with no food and water, she said. Passengers were told the plane was waiting to refuel, then was waiting for a gate, then had to get behind another plane that had an emergency on board, she said.

By the time it was her plane's turn, the plane was snowed in and could not move, she said, so there was another wait to get a truck to tow it to the gate. Once she got into the airport, Dahandari said everything was closed, providing passengers with no food options. They were told that the hotels were booked, she said, and if they left the airport they could not come back in.

She spent a night on the floor, and Sunday morning was standing in line with hundreds of others, hoping to receive a boarding pass and a spot on board a flight.

Cell service inside the airport was spotty, she said, and "everybody's phones are dying. People are trading chargers and laptops."

Overall, she said, passengers have been calm. "I keep waiting for somebody to freak out, but nobody is." She said people were being courteous to airline employees, despite their irritation, as "they're kind of stuck here too."

The fashion consultant had hoped to attend two private Halloween parties in New York Saturday night that were important to her business, and planned to wear a $400 custom-made costume.

"Not only is this the worst traveling experience I've ever had, it's also the worst Halloween I've ever had," she said.

JetBlue spokeswoman Victoria Lucia said in a statement Sunday that 17 flights were diverted on Saturday "due to a confluence of events, including infrastructure issues in New York/JFK and Newark (New Jersey)." Six of those flights were diverted to Hartford, the statement said.

"We worked with the airport to secure services, including remote deplaning and (lavatory) servicing," Lucia said. "Obviously, we would have preferred deplaning much sooner than we did, but our flights were six of the 23 reported diversions into Hartford, including international flights."

In addition, Bradley Airport "experienced intermittent power outages, which made refueling and jetbridge deplaning difficult," she said. "We apologize to the customers impacted by this confluence of events, as it remains JetBlue's responsibility to not simply provide safe and secure travel, but a comfortable experience as well."

Passengers will receive a refund on their flight, as well as a voucher for the same amount as their round-trip fare, Lucia said later Sunday.

The airline said on its web site that it was waiving change or cancel fees, along with fare differences, for travelers in a handful of airports -- Hartford; Newark, New Jersey; Newburgh, New York; New York from JFK or LaGuardia airports; and Westchester County, New York.

Passenger Mara Dhaerman was also stranded in Hartford and said her JetBlue flight, initially from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Newark, New Jersey, spent nine hours on the tarmac in Connecticut. Passengers were told the plane was refueling, then de-icing, and that it was going to try to get back to Newark, but eventually a stairway was brought in and firefighters and troopers helped passengers deboard. She said she received a cot to sleep on about 1 a.m. Sunday.

"It's just very annoying," she said.

CNN's Richard Roth was among those stranded in Hartford. "It's been a tough night for everyone," he said Sunday.