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Storm leaves drivers slipping and sliding

Wallops Midwest, Plains with mix of snow, ice, cold

NEW YORK -- A winter storm battered states from the Plains through the Midwest yesterday, sending travelers slipping and sliding over icy roads, dumping a foot of snow over some areas and pushing temperatures to bitter-cold levels.

What may guarantee a white Christmas for some was a pre-Christmas nightmare for others.

"There's snow on the highway, and people are sliding off the highways, rolling over, and 18-wheelers are jackknifing," said a Texas Department of Public Safety operator in Abilene who counted 17 accidents by 8 a.m. in an eight-county area in West Texas. "People don't know to stay home."

Snow -- or an icy mix of snow and sleet -- fell in New Mexico, where some schools were closed, to the lower Great Lakes.

The storm marked the leading edge of bitterly cold air flowing southward.

Highs only in the teens were forecast yesterday in the northern Texas Panhandle, where windchills today could be as low as 15 below zero, the National Weather Service said.

One traffic death in New Mexico was blamed on an icy road. A motorist in Arkansas was killed in an accident on a sleety interstate.

In Louisville, Ky., ditches were littered with vehicles that slid off icy roads. "Right now we have ice on the bottom and snow on the top," said Linda Utley, an employee at a truck stop along the Pennyrile Parkway in western Kentucky.

The precipitation started as rain in Kentucky then turned to snow as temperatures dropped; the heaviest snowfall was expected in western and north-central Kentucky, where accumulations could reach a foot after another round of snow tonight, forecasters said.

Parts of Arkansas looked forward to only the ninth white Christmas in 120 years as the storm barreled across the state, closing businesses, shuttering restaurants, and snarling traffic.

An interstate in eastern Oklahoma near Checotah was closed for about an hour yesterday after ice formed on a hill, and vehicles couldn't negotiate the stretch of road, which links Oklahoma to Arkansas.

In Lawton, Okla., a tractor-trailer hauling goats overturned on an interstate bridge, state police reported. Many of the animals were trapped in the trailer and died; some escaped and a couple of them apparently jumped off the 40-foot bridge and survived.

Where it wasn't snowing or sleeting, it was just plain cold. In International Falls, Minn., the temperature dropped steadily from about zero to 26 below. In Havre, Mont., the windchill was 13 below after the lunch hour.

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