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Huge Snowstorm Batters U.S., Leaving at Least 17 Dead

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Dec. 9: Residents of Freeport, Ill., shovel a foot of snow on State Avenue. At least 17 have died in the severe winter storms across the U.S. (AP)

A deadly, windy storm that tortured a wide swath of the country for days threatened to drop a foot or more of snow on parts of New York, Pennsylvania and New England Thursday before finally blowing off the coast of Maine.

Commuters from Des Moines to Chicago braced for single digit temperatures and icy roads, while wind chill values as low as negative 25 were forecast for parts of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

"Like I stuck my face in the freezer," was how Bincy Mathew described the Chicago air.

The storm will have affected about two-thirds of the country by the time it moves out Thursday night, and has been blamed for at least 17 deaths, most in traffic accidents.

In New York, a double-decker bus carrying 12 passengers from New York City to Toronto overturned on the New York State Thruway when the driver made an unsafe lane change as snow and high winds blew through Buffalo before dawn Thursday, state police said. Everyone on board had minor injuries.

"The winds were just whipping the snow back across the road and you couldn't get a lane or two cleared or kept cleared," State Police Capt. Michael Nigrelli said.

While less than three inches of snow fell on Buffalo, with winds gusting between 50 mph and 60 mph it was enough to blind drivers, ground flights and force most area schools to close. Frequent thunder and lightning lit up the sky.

"Yesterday we were on the warm side of the storm but now the storm has moved away into the Quebec province so we've got cold air floating across the lakes right now. Everything that's going on right now is pure lake-effect snow," National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Paone said.

The storm was still lingering over some sections of the upper Midwest on Thursday.

Parts of Michigan were under a blizzard warning as the coldest air of the season crossed Lake Michigan and travelers were warned of below-zero windchills and whiteouts.

As the storm moved on, its remnants continued to torment travelers, utility workers and people headed to work and school in hard-hit areas from the mountain West eastward.

In Northern Arizona, 25 to 30 elk hunters remained stranded for a fourth day in below-freezing temperatures and searchers worried they were running low on food and heating fuel. The Coconino County sheriff's office said the hunters were trapped by the 2 to 3 feet of snow that fell Monday.

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