I must have been lucky. Sort of. I live on the East coast and was trying the apple.com website sometime between midnight and 1am, but it looked like they were in the process of making the switchover with the "updating site" message. So I went to bed.
So then I was awake at 530am and decided to give it a shot. I was able to get as far as the AT&T verification screen. It sat and ran, and ran, and ran, and ran.....I let it continue. I went to the bathroom. I ate a bagel. I came back and the same screen was up with the continuous circular "waiting" icon spinning away. I opened another browser and tried another order and immediately got an "OOOOPS..." page ON THE APPLE STORE site! That's their version of an HTTP error, I suppose. I have a screen shot of it because it's pretty funny, but don't see a way to post that here.
My other browser was still in that infinite waiting loop. I went back to bed.
At 730am I woke up and that waiting screen was still there, with the circle continuing to spin. No timeout error, nothing. So I closed all browsers and started fresh.
CA-CHING! It worked and the overall performance and time to place my pre-order was within 5 minutes total. I have an email confirmation for my in-store pickup reservation on 6/24. I checked the various news sites and blogs throughout the day and it appears that, as the country began waking up from East to West, the site continued to choke harder and harder. I must have been one of the lucky ones.