DES MOINES, Iowa -- Frigid temperatures fell into Upper Midwest on Thursday as a massive storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in several states from Iowa to New England neared the end of its cross-country trek.
Commuters from Des Moines to Chicago were warned of morning temperatures reaching 10 degrees at best and icy roads. Wind chill values could dip to as low as minus 25 in parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's already very cold across the entire region ... when (the storm) moves east and the skies clear over Illinois, it'll get even colder," said Casey Sullivan, a weather service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill. "Iowa's even colder."
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Des Moines, which saw 16 inches of snow by Wednesday, could see a high near 9 degrees but wind chill values could make temperatures feel like negative 25. In Madison, Wis., near where almost 19 inches of snow fell, the wind chill could hit minus 20, according to the weather service.
New England, also pounded by heavy snow and strong winds on Wednesday, expected temperatures to hover around freezing.
The storm was expected to move off the coast of Maine by Thursday night after having affected about two-thirds of the country, meteorologists predicted.
Wind gusts that reached more than 50 mph and built snow drifts between 8 and 15 feet tall had died down by Thursday, but officials still warned of blowing snow and treacherous driving conditions.
"Take some extra time because the roads are gonna be slick," said Lori Getter, spokeswoman at the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center.
The storm was blamed for at least 17 deaths, most in traffic accidents, in the Upper Midwest and New England. Hundreds of schools were closed, power was knocked out to thousands of people from Missouri to New York and hundreds of flights were canceled.
In northern New York, up to a foot fell on Wednesday and more than 3 feet was expected by the week's end. Areas in Maine and New Hampshire received up to a foot of snow. Up to 7 inches of snow fell in northeast Pennsylvania.
The storm drenched California in rain, blanketed the mountain West in snow and shattered snowfall records in Flagstaff, Ariz. earlier this week. Wind gusts of up to 100 mph were reported in New Mexico, wind chills as low as minus 40 hit southern Montana, and heavy rain and flooding affected parts of the South, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm felt like a rude surprise after an unseasonably warm and dry November in parts of the Midwest. The massive system is the first major blast of wintry weather for many parts of the region.
"I've been dreading this day," said Kim Brust, shoveling the sidewalk in front of his Minneapolis home before sunrise Wednesday. "I was starting to enjoy the global warming."
While an inconvenience for many, others took an opportunity to play.
At least 3,000 University of Wisconsin-Madison students took advantage of an unplanned day off and hurled snowballs at each other in a massive snowball fight.
Some came holding trays as shields. Others were bundled up to protect themselves from the below-freezing temperatures and winds that gusted to more than 20 mph -- though several went shirtless, while at least one had on pajamas.
"I figured with the day off, there was no better way to spend it than with a snowball fight," said Matt Moerel, 19, of Vadnais Heights, Minn.
Many New England residents braced for bone-chilling winds after digging out from a foot or more of snow. The weather was welcomed by 8-year-old Gavin Graham of Concord, N.H. He spent two hours sledding.
"It was really good sledding. The snow was puffy, and that was really good because we had little jumps already made," he said. "It was awesome having the day off from school."
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