The deadly storm that has badgered the Midwest with blackouts, heavy snowfall and bone-chilling temperatures ventured into the Northeast on Thursday, swelling rivers and creeks and coating highways with dangerous layers of ice.

Schoolchildren across the storm's path stayed home, some for the third straight day as snowplows continued to clear the wintry mess.

As the storm reached the East Coast, a foot of snow fell around southern New York, and parts of the Hudson Valley (search) saw up to eight inches of snow before sleet and freezing rain arrived. Troopers worked overtime to handle hundreds of accidents.

The messy roads have been blamed in at least 17 traffic deaths, including nine in Oklahoma, this week as the storm moved eastward. Several other people have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and while shoveling snow.

Anne Panzica, 27, spent nearly three hours driving from her home in Boston to Connecticut for work, a trip that might usually take half that long. Midway through the drive, she ran out of wiper fluid, but she kept her windshield clear by following trucks that sprayed slush onto it.

"Once I hit Connecticut, it was really rough," Panzica said.

The West Coast — the first victim of the storm before it moved east — was bracing for even more wintry weather. Two winter storms were expected to hit California in the coming days. The Coast Guard warned of waves that could reach 17 feet high in the Bay Area.

"The entire state of California is pretty much under the gun for the next three or four days," Duane Dykema, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey, said Thursday.

Chicago had all 262 of its snow trucks working Thursday to keep roads clear. O'Hare International Airport, which had almost 10 inches of snow, saw 300 canceled flights, on top of 1,000 that were grounded the day before. Airports in Boston and New York also had delays.

Until now, Wisconsin's Wilmot Mountain (search) had used artificial snow to stay open, but president and CEO Diane Reese expected the natural variety to boost business by at least 30 percent. "If they see it, they will come," Reese said.

The Green Bay Packers (search), meanwhile, put out a call to hire as many as 300 people to shovel out Lambeau Field before the team's Sunday playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Ice and falling tree limbs downed power lines around the region. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power in the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana and Kansas.

Jim Jensen, who lost power in Bellefontaine, Ohio, said ice was about 2 inches thick on bushes "and everything you can see."

"The trees around us — we can hear them snapping and popping. It's not safe out walking around," said Jensen.

The storm came with bone-chilling cold in some areas, with temperatures falling to 36 below zero in Big Fork, Minn. But warming temperatures from Illinois into Michigan and Pennsylvania were changing freezing rain into showers Thursday.

Flood warnings stretched from Missouri into Pennsylvania, and at least 16 Ohio families had to be ferried to safety by boat.

Doug Neal, of Columbus, said his neighbors near a quiet bend in Big Walnut Creek were leaving their homes in rowboats and rafts.

"No one has seen the water this high," he said as water crept toward the foundation of his home. "It's normally the most beautiful, tranquil — which is why we live here. But Mother Nature has sure changed that."

On the rising Ohio River (search), 16 coal barges docked at an Ohio power plant broke free Thursday, and four went over a dam and drifted toward Wheeling, W.Va., forcing bridges in that area to close for hours, the Coast Guard said. Twenty-five coal barges in all broke loose on the West Virginia section of the Ohio River.

The river was expected to rise to almost 7 feet above flood stage in Wheeling by Friday morning.

Officials in and around Allegheny, Pa., spent much of the day responding to mudslides and flooded basements and roads in low lying areas.

Searches continued Thursday for a married couple who had been in a car that was found washed into a creek in Missouri, and a pair of 20-year-olds whose pickup was discovered stuck in the snow in Nebraska on Wednesday. Nebraska officials found a body partially buried in snow that is believed to be one of the victims.

"It's a rural area," sheriff's Lt. Greg London said Thursday. "You either live out there or you're lost."