(USA Today)-- As yet another fierce storm wallops much of the nation, creating havoc from Texas through Maine with ice, freezing rain and snow, Americans are growing weary of a winter that keeps spreading misery even to places unaccustomed to frigid conditions.
The latest storm, termed "mind-boggling if not historical" by the National Weather Service, was bringing dangerous ice and freezing rain to heavily populated corridor of the South, from Atlanta to Raleigh, N.C., before moving north with as much as a foot of snow from Virginia to New England.
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Though it's not quite the middle of February, this winter's toll has already delivered more than a season's worth of hard punches.
More than three dozen people from Missouri to Connecticut have died as a result of the wild weather, and tens of thousands of canceled flights stranded travelers, sometimes for days. More than 90% of the nation's 116 million homes will face higher heating bills because of the cold blasts.
Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, are digging out from their snowiest month on record, according to the National Weather Service. Other Midwestern cities - such as Cincinnati, Chicago and Indianapolis - already have seen more snow than they typically get in an entire winter. And for them, winter can run into April.
Even the Deep South was suffering. Shreveport, La., Mayor Cedric Glover tweeted that "Due to inclement weather the city of Shreveport will be closed Wednesday." He said that in just one hour Tuesday afternoon, the small Louisiana city had eight car wrecks, a bus wreck and an overturned garbage truck.
The severe winter hits many in the wallet.
"The snow has caused me to miss several shifts of work that I count on to pay the bills," said Alyssa Kaliszewski, 24, of Plantsville, Conn., who works the early shift at the Southington-Cheshire YMCA and babysits. She said she's "definitely not looking forward to the more snow we might get.''
"Over the past few weeks, Connecticut has been hit with over a foot of snow," she said. "The temperature hasn't reached above freezing in the past several days, which has put everyone in a funk."
All 50 states saw freezing temperatures on a few occasions in January - even Hawaii, where it was 18 degrees atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, on Jan. 7.
"It's been one of the coldest winters we've seen since the early 80s," said Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
What's been most notable, he said, has been the duration and depth of the cold. We've been spoiled with recent winters that have barely registered as cold, such as the winter of 2011-12, which was the USA's 3rd-warmest on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
The storm lashing the South this week is at least the third this winter across parts of the region. Earlier in January, temperatures dropped to single digits as far south as Atlanta and Birmingham.
The cause was an unwelcome incursion of the "polar vortex," a frigid pool of air that normally spins over the Arctic. This year, however, wild swings in the jet stream and strange upper-air patterns opened the door for the cold air to invade the central and eastern, and as far south as the Gulf Coast.
The polar vortex isn't new; its pattern has been.
Global warming could be allowing the polar vortex to stray, Weber said: "This type of cold is something we'd expect in a warming environment."
This harsh winter took a bite out of the nation's economy too - from car sales to flights to Big Macs - in the hundreds of millions of dollars, analysts said.
The snowdrifts kept residents in their homes and out of stores and restaurants, denting consumer spending, said Paul Walsh, vice president of the Weather Company, parent company of the Weather Channel. Last month's weak domestic auto sales figures and McDonald's restaurants' lower-than-expected sales numbers could be directly linked to weather, he said.
"The economy basically freezes in place," Walsh said. "It's just a ripple effect across the entire economy."
Though it's impossible to attach a definitive dollar amount, expect gross domestic product to dip this quarter due to the winter, said David Woo, head of Global Rates and Currencies Research at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.
But it's temporary. "The economy is absolutely going to rip once this weather effect drops out," Woo said.
Not everyone was complaining. Home improvement centers and winter apparel outlets were doing well, said Joe DeRugeriis, with Planalytics, a Berwyn, Pa., firm that studies the economic impact of weather. Another big winner: companies that supply rock salt to towns and communities, he said.
After walloping the Southeast with ice and freezing rain, this laest storm is forecast to move up the East Coast later Wednesday and into Thursday, potentially dropping as much as a foot of snow all the way from Virginia to New England.
Heavy snow is forecast just west of the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to Boston, and continuing up into Maine.
"Airports from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston will experience trouble with this storm," said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal said the National Guard opened 65 emergency shelters, and seven more were open at state parks along Interstate 20.
Zach Steenberger, 19, and his mother, Vanessa Bray, 48, both of suburban Atlanta, shopped at Home Depot on Tuesday for last-minute storm preparations: a power saw, kerosene and batteries.
"I'm really ready for summer to get here," Bray said.
Contributing: Natalie DiBlasio and Doyle Rice in McLean, Va., Rick Jervis in Austin, Tex.; Larry Copeland in Atlanta