KANSAS CITY, MO(CBSNews.com)- For the second time in a week, a major winter storm paralyzed parts of the nation's midsection Tuesday, dumping a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow atop cities still choked with piles from the previous system and making travel perilous from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Great Lakes.
The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths were blamed on the blizzard.
The Missouri Department of Transportation issued a rare "no travel" advisory, urging people to stay off highways except in case of a dire emergency. Conditions were so bad that some snowplows slid into ditches, underlining the danger even to well-equipped travelers.
"It's straight hell. It's snowing, blowing, drifting, everything," said Robert Branscecum, a trucker from Campton, Ill., who was hauling Wal-Mart merchandise to Dallas. He had been stranded since Monday evening at Beto Junction, about 80 miles southwest of Kansas City.
Fueled by a strong low pressure system, the crescent-shaped storm began Sunday in Texas, then headed north. It was expected to drop up to 6 inches of snow on Chicago before crawling east across Michigan toward northern New England.
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"The cars are stuck in the parking lot. Some of the trucks that tried to leave got stuck," he said. "I'm not leaving anytime soon."
Up to 10 inches had fallen in and around Kansas City, Mo., by the time the snow tapered off before midday. Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency.
Stephen Porter, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation, told KCTV: "This is kind of like the Super Bowl for us. This is what we live for. ... We've got a lot of people and a lot of equipment coming in to help. We know this is going to be ground zero. We're going to be right in the bull's eye of this story, and we'll be ready for it."
He said supervisors were keeping an eye on drivers for signs of fatigue, but he thought most were doing fine because of 12-hour intervals between shifts.
For a second straight week, schoolchildren, government workers and others caught a break as most schools and office buildings were closed. Hospitals closed outpatient centers and urgent-care clinics.
Although the amount of snow was not unusual for late February, the snow was so heavy it stressed everything it fell on, especially the electrical grid. Power was slowly being restored as the thick clouds moved on.
In the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward, a person was killed after 15 inches of snow brought down part of a roof. The storm was also blamed for the deaths of two people who were killed in rollover crashes Monday on Interstate 70 in Kansas.
Heavy snow pulled down large trees and caused roofs to cave in at businesses in Belton and Warrensburg, Mo., where 13 inches of snow piled up. In Columbia, a canopy over gas pumps collapsed at a convenience store.
By noon, the storm had arrived in the Great Lakes with a mixture of blowing snow, sleet and frigid rain that disrupted most forms of travel. Airlines canceled almost 500 flights at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports alone.
Elsewhere in Chicago, the heavy weather threatened to hold down voter turnout in a special election to choose the likely replacement for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The city deployed extra resources to keep polls accessible. Its full fleet of 284 snowplows was out clearing pavement.
The wintry mix also blew through Iowa, which had been expected to escape any serious snowfall. Parts of the state could now get as much as a foot.