Residents across the Plains coped with widespread power outages and treacherous travel early Thursday, hoping for a respite from storms that have packed freezing rain, frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall this week.
About 500,000 homes and businesses in Arkansas and Texas alone were without electricity after Wednesday's ice storms caused power lines to fall.
Slick roads and heavy snowfall caused at least eight traffic deaths, one in Texas, one in Missouri, two in Arkansas. Three members of an Indiana family were killed Wednesday when their car spun out of control and hit a garbage truck, and a Kansas man died when his carport collapsed under the weight of the snow.
''This is as much snow as we've seen in the last 15 years and we got it all in one whack,'' said Charles Ward, city superintendent in the small southeastern Kansas town of Colony. The area received about 14 inches of snow.
Springfield, Mo., also had received more than 14 inches of snow.
In Arkansas, where about 202,000 people were without electricity, a pileup of about 15 tractor-trailer trucks and cars shut down parts of Interstates 55 and 40. At one point, 80 semi-trucks were backed up on another highway. No serious injuries were reported.
In east and central Texas, almost 300,000 customers were without electricity early Thursday, and a nursing home was forced to transport 32 residents to a nearby church for warmth.
Thousands of workers were scrambling to restore power to the devastated power system in the two states. Entergy Arkansas said it could be Saturday before power was fully restored.
''This very well could be the worse ice storm we've ever seen in terms of damage to the electrical system,'' Entergy spokesman David Lewis said. ''The ice is it. Snow wouldn't have hurt nearly this bad.''
On Wednesday, the nasty 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.
''The one thing that is kind of bad about an airport is that it is sort of like an airplane. ... There is no place to really relax,'' said Madalyn Lester, who was stuck in St. Louis on her way from the beaches of Hawaii to her home in Oklahoma.
St. Louis got 7.1 inches of snow, causing Trans World Airlines to cancel 275 flights and delay several others.
The weather also forced the closure of hundreds of schools in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana and Illinois.
The remnants of the storm that began Tuesday were expected to continue Thursday, with more chilly temps.
Many residents were also faced with the daunting task of digging out from all the snow.
''Now it's time for the sore backs to kick in,'' said Jim Wright of Springfield, Mo., who spent close to an hour moving snow from his driveway while his daughter made snow angels. ''You've got to love winter.''
On the Net:
National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/graphicsversion/bigmain.html