A killer snowstorm was sweeping across the Midwest and beyond on Thursday, shuttering schools, clogging highways and bottling up airports for the holiday rush.
Three deaths were reported, including a woman in Utah who died after trying to walk for help when her car became stuck in the blizzard.
Blizzard warnings were in effect in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, according to the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel reported that parts of 20 of the lower 48 states are under winter weather advisories -- as far west as Washington state and as far east as New York state.
The snowstorm was walloping Iowa, and about a foot of snow had already fallen in Des Moines. Across Iowa, 30,900 customers were without power Thursday morning, including more than 25,000 in the Des Moines area.
Nebraska's largest school district canceled classes because of heavy overnight snow, as did many districts across the region. In many areas drivers were being told to stay off the roads starting Wednesday evening because of whiteout conditions.
Some spots in Iowa and Wisconsin could see a foot and a half of snow by the time the storm winds down Thursday night, according to the weather service.
In southeastern Wisconsin, where a blizzard warning was in effect and winds of up to 45 mph were expected to create whiteout conditions, sheriff's officials said slick conditions led to at least two fatalities late Wednesday when a driver lost control of his car in Rock County, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
The weather service was forecasting "thundersnow" in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, where snow could fall at the rate of 2-3 inches an hour.
Wisonsin Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency, which put the state Emergency Government, National Guard, State Patrol and other agencies at high alert.
The storm forecast promises much-needed precipitation for the drought-plagued regions, but was bad news for holiday travelers.