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First big wintry storm snarls Midwest, aims north

A massive snowstorm roared through the Plains and Midwest on Friday, shutting thousands of schools and leaving a wake of broken trees, abandoned autos and more than 2-million homes and businesses without power.

At least six deaths have been linked to the storm, the season's first, which stranded air travelers and coated roads with ice from Texas to Michigan as it moved toward Canada.

Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri declared a state of emergency for the entire state and said he was mobilizing National Guard troops and vehicles in St. Louis County. In Kansas, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius declared a state of disaster emergency for Harper and Leavenworth counties, bringing that state's total number of counties declared emergencies to 27 out of 105.

Air travel was disrupted throughout the region on Thursday and Friday. At Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, half of Friday's flights were canceled - an improvement from Thursday, when 223 out of 367 flights were canceled, said Shirley Walls, a spokeswoman for the airport. Freezing rain followed by snow created thick ice around many of the grounded aircraft, causing further delays as ground crews labored to de-ice the planes.

At O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, a FedEx cargo plane slid off the runway and became stuck in mud after landing Friday morning. A second cargo plane was struck by lightning on Friday. There were no injuries in either incident.

Highways were also hit hard. On Thursday, a 16-vehicle pileup involving an ambulance and eight semitrailers forced the closure of Interstate 40 in central Oklahoma for nearly 13 hours.

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