National Guard Assists in Snowstorm Recovery in Midwest, Thousands Still Powerless

Some crews repaired downed power lines, others swept debris from train tracks and National Guardsmen went door-to-door checking on residents after the Midwest's first big snowstorm of the season.

As temperatures fell below freezing, officials warned Saturday that some people could be without power for days.

The storm was blamed for at least 15 deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early Saturday. Schools and businesses were shuttered, and hundreds of travelers were stranded by canceled flights.

Nearly 600 Amtrak passengers in Illinois and Missouri were delayed up to 10 hours Friday and Saturday morning, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. With many tracks still strewn with downed trees and power lines, passengers were eventually taken by bus to their destinations.

Truck driver David Huwe got his 18-wheeler and load of frozen food back on the road Saturday after being stuck for more than 12 hours at a rest stop near Princeton, Ill., on Interstate 80, which was blocked by scores of trucks and cars that slid off the icy highway.

"I was supposed to be [in California] Sunday night," Huwe said by cell phone Saturday morning. He had revised his arrival time and hoped he'd make it by Monday.

Red Cross volunteers at Decatur helped some of the stranded I-80 travelers by ordering 100 McDonald's hamburgers, which were airlifted by the National Guard.

Guardsmen in Missouri and Illinois went knocking on doors in the St. Louis and East St. Louis areas to make sure residents were surviving the cold.

Many areas got more than a foot of snow. Highways were mostly clear Saturday but still had icy spots.

Airlines were recovering from the widespread cancellations caused by the storm; delays at Lambert Airport in St. Louis were generally 15 minutes or less Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. There were no measurable delays Saturday at Chicago's two major airports, said Wendy Abrams, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

About 427,000 Ameren Corp. customers were without power in Missouri and Illinois on Saturday night. "It could be days before it's fully restored because it's really treacherous out there," Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said.

As the storm moved east, gusty wind blacked out more customers from Tennessee to New York. About 5,200 homes and businesses were still without power Saturday across upstate New York. About 1,500 waited for power in Michigan.

Two women were killed in Pennsylvania, one by a falling tree and another by a wind-blown section of roof, and another falling tree landed on a house and killed one person in New York, authorities said. Two men over the age of 60 died after shoveling snow in Wisconsin, and an 87-year-old woman died in the St. Louis areas in a house fire that started when an ice-laden tree limb fell on a power line, fire officials said.

Storm-related traffic deaths included two in Missouri, one in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. Near Paducah, Texas, a vehicle carrying high school girls' basketball players overturned on an icy highway, killing a 14-year-old player and injuring seven people.

In Illinois, a woman died after being struck by a snow plow that was backing up, and a 67-year-old man collapsed died of complications from heart disease after trimming tree limbs with a hand saw.

An Illinois woman also died after using a gas-powered generator in an unventilated garage, and a woman was killed while turning at an intersection where traffic lights weren't functioning because of the power outages, according to Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn.