All things considered, it could have been worse.

The record-setting snowstorm that rumbled into Connecticut Monday choked roads, stranded travelers at airports and closed malls, forcing many stores to cancel their Presidents' Day sales.

But Monday's light holiday traffic blunted the storm's potential for widespread chaos.

Despite hundreds of fender benders, and as many as 28 storm-related deaths in other states, no fatalities were reported in Connecticut; and the dearth of tractor-trailers and commuter traffic helped keep the state's roads passable.

``We lucked out in terms of the timing of the storm, with the holiday today,'' Gov. John G. Rowland said Monday afternoon.

Rowland opened the state's Emergency Operations Center at 1 p.m. Monday in the State Armory in Hartford, but did not declare a state of emergency, as officials in some other states did.

Parts of the state along the shoreline achieved blizzard conditions, defined as heavy snowfall that reduces visibility to one-quarter mile or less, combined with extreme cold and winds of 35 mph or more, sustained for three hours.

The storm was forecast to peak overnight in blizzard conditions before winding down around noon today. Weather forecasters said final snowfall totals would exceed 2 feet in some parts of Connecticut -- ranking it among the worst storms in state history.

``We're looking at copious amounts of snow. Bunches and bunches,'' said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. ``It's one of the better storms we've had at least in the past two years.''

Rowland was optimistic that today the storm will move out of the area and Connecticut residents will be able to get back to business as usual.

``I would just encourage everyone to go to work,'' he said, adding that state departments are expected to be open as usual. ``The highways should be very clear hopefully by first thing [this] morning.''

Getting Around

Road conditions statewide were treacherous Monday as snow coated the pavement almost as quickly as plows could push it out of the way. More than 100 stuck or disabled vehicles had been towed off state highways by 3 p.m.

``We've had lots of calls for service today: Cars spun into snowdrifts, dead batteries, alternator problems,'' said Silbina Hilario of Newtown-based Hilario's Service Garage, which routinely responds to disabled vehicles on nearby I-84.

Monday's storm was the first large test of the state Department of Transportation's resources since Jan. 17, when 178 employees with snow and ice duties were laid off as part of state cost-cutting measures.

State officials have said the transportation department has 870 employees to operate approximately 650 pieces of equipment.

Rowland said Monday that he was aware of about 10 trucks that were not being driven because of personnel shortages. He said that is about the same number of trucks that are usually out of service for maintenance, so Monday's staffing and snowplowing was about equal to that of previous storms.

``There's been no diminishing effect from the layoffs,'' Rowland said.

Union workers did not agree.