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Winter storm blamed for deaths, widespread outages

  • Story Highlights
  • At least 17 deaths blamed on icy winter storm
  • Kentucky opens 45 shelters for thousands without power
  • "Everything in northwest Arkansas is at a standstill," police officer says
  • Storms drop ice, sleet and snow from Texas to Ohio Valley to New England
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(CNN) -- A massive winter storm has left at least 17 people dead and more than a million homes across the Midwest without power, according to reports from several state emergency management agencies.

Ice coats a railing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where iReporter Jason Gemeiner said power was out Tuesday.

A tree pulls on utility lines Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, in a photo from iReporter Jacek Jasinski.

Almost half those households are in Kentucky, where 45 shelters have been set up to help residents battling icy conditions, a spokesman for the governor's office said.

"One of our biggest concerns is [providing] power generators, especially for nursing homes out in the western part of the state that are without power," Jay Blanton, spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, said Wednesday.

The storm dumped ice and snow on a region that extends from Texas to Kentucky and left "absolutely everything in northwest Arkansas ... at a standstill," an Arkansas police officer said. Video Watch ice damage trees in Arkansas »

"It's hard to walk, let alone drive," Fayetteville, Arkansas, police officer Dan Baker said. "It looks like tornado damage."

He added, "Our officers are wearing metal cleats just so they can walk the streets." iReport.com: Send your wintry weather photos, videos

Northwest Arkansas has been hit hard, and schools and universities were closed throughout the state. Photo See the impact of the storms »

Highway information

Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas

"It's like a ghost town," Barbara Rademacher of Rogers, Arkansas, said Wednesday morning.

"It's just white and ice," Rademacher said while looking out her kitchen window at a street devoid of traffic and littered with the ice-weighted branches of oak trees.

"The roads are impassable, and there are shelters set up in every community because there are so many people with power out," she said.

The storms were extending their reach into the New England states Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued freezing rain, ice and winter storm warnings from Texas up through the Ohio Valley and into New England. Video Watch how to have fun in the snow »

As of Wednesday, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported at least 27,621 homes and businesses affected by power outages across the state. The commission office was closed Wednesday because of the icy conditions.

Heavy snow fell in many areas Tuesday into early Wednesday. Parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland were hit with 4 inches; parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were struck with 6 inches; and areas of Ohio were covered with 12 inches of snow, forecasters said. Ice storms blast the heartland

Weather-related flight delays were reported at New York's LaGuardia and Washington Dulles International airports as well as in Dallas, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Newark, New Jersey, a Federal Aviation Administration Web site indicated. Check on your airport

For Dorenda Coks, assistant manager at City Bites in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the winter blast was a completely new experience. Video Watch the terrible driving conditions in Oklahoma and Arkansas »

The Jamaica native is experiencing her first winter in Oklahoma and wasn't prepared for the cold.

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"You just try to stay warm," Coks said.

Oklahomans were due for some relief Wednesday as temperatures were expected to rise above freezing, according to meteorologist Andy Wallace of CNN affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

CNN's David Ariosto contributed to this report.

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