Dec. 10, 2009 — -- At least 17 deaths have been blamed on a gigantic storm that stretched across the Midwest and New England, bringing howling winds and freezing temperatures, and dumping more than a foot of snow in 12 states.
Although winter is still 11 days away, the massive storm left blizzard conditions, snowdrifts and subzero wind chills in its wake.
"This storm certainly brought winter to the northern part of the United States," said Jack Hales of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's storm prediction center.
The storm moved through 46 of the 50 states. Nearly 20 inches of snow fell in Wisconsin, and 16 inches in Iowa. Nebraska received 10.5 inches, the most snow that state has seen in December in 50 years.
Most of the 17 deaths were due to traffic accidents. In Kansas visibility was a mere 50 feet, and Interstate 80 in Iowa was shut down, leaving truck drivers stranded.
"We would get towed, but it's too expensive, but we might have to," said one stranded trucker.
People in Chicago woke up to a temperature of 2 degrees, while in Madison, Wis., it was minus 16 degrees with the windchill.
"It's a skating rink here," ABC News correspondent Barbara Pinto said while reporting from Madison.
"Take some extra time because the roads are gonna be slick," Lori Getter, spokeswoman at the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center, told The Associated Press.
In the Northeast the snow turned to rain and flooded some areas. Freezing temperatures in New England are predicted for Thursday, according to the AP.
The storm is caused by the same low-pressure system that already blew across the West, leaving 3 to 4 feet of snow in mountainous parts of California and Arizona, and causing winds of 80 to 100 mph in parts of Texas.
"It's definitely the worst storm I've seen in quite a few years of being up here, absolutely," J.T. Michael of Flagstaff, Ariz., said Wednesday. There 30 inches of snow were reported.
While most took cover from the storm, at least 3,000 students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took the opportunity to have one of the biggest snowball fights in the school's history.
In the mid-South there were high winds and widespread flooding. In Nashville, Tenn., the wind was enough to snap the Christmas tree at the state Capitol building in half.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.