A sloppy storm dumped more than a year's worth of snow on parts of the Midwest and made a mess of holiday travel and last-minute Christmas shopping Thursday. At least 12 traffic deaths were blamed on the storm.
The heavy snowfall and icy roads stranded motorists and delayed flights ahead of a holiday weekend in which a record 62 million were expected to travel.
"I was scared, wondering about the kids. How was I going to feed them?" said Mary Craddock, a 28-year-old waitress from Hartford, Ky., who was stranded along with scores of other motorists overnight on snowy Interstate 64 in Evansville, Ind.
Her car was out of gas, and she and her two children had finished their only food — a bag of potato chips — as they waited it out. Temperatures in Evansville dipped into the teens and Wednesday's snowfall of 19.3 inches topped the city's average total winter snowfall of 14.2 inches.
The winter weather hampered efforts to wrap up holiday shopping.
Kashiba Allen was one of the few shoppers who made it to Cincinnati's nearly deserted downtown, where many stores and restaurants were shut down early Thursday. The 14-year-old girl took a bus downtown to finish her Christmas shopping.
"I wouldn't have come down if I didn't have to finish my shopping," she said. "There were cars stuck all over the roads. For the first time I sort of glad I'm too young to drive."
Ellen Tolley, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, said sales may have stalled in areas hit with heavy snow, but the wintry weather may put others in a holiday shopping mood.
Parts of Arkansas looked forward to only the ninth white Christmas in 120 years as the storm barreled across the state, closing businesses, shuttering restaurants and snarling traffic.
In Kentucky, dozens of travelers were stranded overnight along Interstates 71 and 24. Motorists on I-24 bunked down in the lobby and hallways at the Best Western Executive Inn at Carrollton. Weary travelers were sprawled across chairs in the dining room, others curled up in corners or under stairs, using rolled-up towels as pillows.
Paducah, Ky., received 14 inches of snow, topping the yearly average of 10 inches and doubling its previous one-day record.
In Evansville, Rachel Stratton, 20, and her husband, Laromy, 21, of Olathe, Kan., were stranded with their nearly 2-year-old son, Logan, while on their way to Roanoke, Va., for Christmas, but were lucky to have a supply of granola.
"We were better off than other people," she said.
AAA is predicting this will be the busiest holiday travel season ever, in part because Christmas and New Year's Eve fall on weekends this year. AAA spokesman Mantill Williams said nearly 51 million people are traveling by car.
Four people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in Oklahoma, three each in Ohio and Arkansas and one each in New Mexico and Texas. A 76-year-old woman in Ohio died of an apparent heart attack while shoveling snow.