Frustrating travelers for a third straight day, a new storm spread ice and snow across the nation's midsection Wednesday, grounding planes, closing schools and government offices and sending cars skidding into each other.
At least six traffic deaths were blamed on the weather Wednesday, one in Texas, two in Arkansas and three in Indiana. A southeast Kansas man died when his carport collapsed under the weight of the snow.
The new round of ice and wind knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the South. Snow piled up 13 inches deep in parts of Oklahoma.
The bad weather also caused a new round of flight cancellations at Chicago's airports, where operations were just getting back to normal after Monday's snowstorm.
Jim Kanik and a business partner got a call early in the day from TWA telling them their return flight from St. Louis to Chicago, where they left earlier in the week, could be canceled by the worsening weather.
''We fought our way out of Chicago and now we have to fight our way out of here,'' Kanik said.
The storm moved in while the upper Midwest was still digging out from Monday's snowstorm and the Northeast was still picking up the pieces after Tuesday's winds. Both storms stranded airplane passengers around the country.
On Wednesday, the bad weather forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in and out of St. Louis; Dallas-Fort-Worth; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Oklahoma City.
Dozens of stranded travelers spent Tuesday night at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. ''The floor was hard and cold, it was drafty, the blanket wasn't warm enough and the pillow was too bloody weak,'' complained Peter Cate.
Highways were no better than the airports. Pileups included a chain-reaction wreck of about 15 trucks and cars on Interstate 55 at West Memphis, Ark. One motorists received minor injuries.
Many drivers gave up and headed indoors.
''We are packed wall-to-wall with people,'' said Lisa Helm, vice president of the Big Cabin Truck Plaza on Interstate 44 at Big Cabin, Okla. ''We have our restaurant packed to the max. We converted our barber shop into a makeshift restaurant.''
Some government worker were told to stay home because of the slippery roads in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Snow and ice also closed hundreds of schools in Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana and Illinois. In southern Illinois, heavy snowfall was followed by freezing rain that turned roadways into sheets of ice.
''The snow is falling so heavily, as soon as the highway crews go through and plow, in a short time, they're completely covered again,'' said Sgt. Terry St. Clair of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Nearly 300,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Texas, along with more than 150,000 customers in Arkansas and 105,000 in Louisiana, where utility officials said it could be a week or more before everyone gets the lights back on. The outage shut down the water treatment plant in Shreveport, La.
Despite the thick, wet snow, students at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield still had to trudge across campus to face final exams.
''I'm really don't mind,'' said sophomore Jenelle Ehlehrs. ''As soon as we finish up, I get to play in the snow.''
On the Net:
National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/graphicsversion/bigmain.html