20 Die as Winter Storm Puts Much of U.S. on Ice

From Times Wire Services

A wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain swept across much of the nation Thursday, turning roads into toboggan runs, causing innumerable fender-benders, grounding aircraft and contributing to more than 20 deaths.

A West Virginia couple who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary were killed when their car was struck by a tractor-trailer that lost control on an icy highway.

A small pickup truck swerved on an icy bridge and slammed into a bus on Interstate 10 in Texas, killing three people and injuring 13. The bus was traveling in tandem with another from San Antonio to El Paso when the crash happened Wednesday night.

Five people died in wrecks in South Carolina as sleet and freezing rain fell, and an Indiana state highway worker was killed when a truck loading road salt backed over him.

As much as 10 inches of snow fell in southwestern Missouri, causing scores of accidents and at least four fatalities.

The snow and snowy forecasts caused the usual run on bread and milk at grocery stores, as well as a similar rush for snow-clearing equipment.

"We're having quite a few wrecks," said Jerry Campbell, chief dispatcher in Webster County, Mo., where a school bus overturned. No children were on board, and no one was injured.

Early morning flights out of North Dakota's Minot airport were canceled, though Bismarck's airport remained open.

Schools and businesses were closed, while the state Capitol in Bismarck remained open. Gov. Edward T. Schafer joked that he would not mind if the first bill he signs this year outlaws blizzards.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol said it had closed Interstate 94, which crosses the state from east to west.

A vehicle skidded out of control along Interstate 29 in South Dakota, starting a chain reaction that ended as a 19-vehicle pileup.

"Cars started sliding everywhere," motorist Andrew Zigler said. "It was like black ice."

DeeAnn Wrange, whose car collided with Zigler's, said there was little people could do. "Either you hit one person on one side or hit this vehicle," Wrange said.

South Dakota Gov. William Janklow ordered Interstate 29 and most of Interstate 90 closed because of blizzard conditions.

Sisseton, S.D., has been paralyzed for days by 8-foot drifts. Workers at a nursing home had to tunnel through drifts as high as the building to get inside, and the canopy at a service station collapsed under the weight of the snow.

Slick and slushy roads caused tricky driving for commuters across Oklahoma as state residents dug out from as much as 8 inches of snow that contributed to at least three traffic deaths.

Traffic accidents blamed on icy roads also claimed three lives in Kentucky and one in Tennessee.

In Nebraska, a man was in critical condition after a semi-trailer truck skidded on icy Interstate 80 near Omaha and toppled onto his car.

State police in Illinois, where up to 8 inches of snow fell in the central and southern parts of the state, dealt with numerous cars and trucks sliding off roads into ditches and medians.

"I've been out here almost 28 years now, and it amazes me that people don't know that ice is slick," said Master Sgt. Adin Mitchel of the state police in Du Quoin. "They have to be trained again."

Air traffic delays were commonplace. Cancellations lit up flight boards at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports, where heavy snow was falling. Some delays were also reported at Dulles and National airports in the Washington area.

Snow in the nation's capital prompted schools to shut down and the federal government told employees they could stay home if they needed to.

Eastern Kansas was blanketed with up to 6 inches of snow.

About 25,000 people in northeast Georgia lost power as freezing rain toppled trees and downed power lines. Schoolchildren in seven counties were given the day off.

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