updated 1/7/2005 4:42:06 PM ET 2005-01-07T21:42:06

Flooding on the Ohio River damaged hundreds of homes and businesses Friday, a soggy calling card left by the winter storm that brought miserable conditions across much of the central and northeastern United States.

Schools were closed in river towns in West Virginia and Ohio, and the historic National Road was underwater in Wheeling, where the Ohio was 6 feet above flood stage Friday morning. The river was expected to rise three more feet before cresting after lunchtime.

The flooding came as temperatures warmed after a deadly storm crossed from the Plains into New England this week. Many schools and colleges across the region remained closed Friday over fears of slick roads or a lack of electricity. About 250,000 customers were still in the dark Friday in Indiana, Ohio and Kansas.

In Marietta, Ohio, shopkeepers stacked sandbags in front of their doors and moved goods off the floors.

“It’s not a ghost town, but there are no businesses open that I’m aware of,” said Mike Cullums, a spokesman for the Washington County Emergency Management Agency.

Damage appeared heavy on Wheeling Island, which is home to 1,000 homes and businesses and a stadium, Ohio County emergency officials said. A few hundred homes also had water damage in New Cumberland, about 30 miles north, Tuscarawas County emergency officials said.

Problems were less severe than in September, when the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan created flooding and mudslides, the officials said.

17 traffic deaths
Since this storm began its eastward trek, Messy roads have been blamed in at least 17 traffic deaths, including nine in Oklahoma, while at least three people died in Michigan while shoveling snow.

Video: East-West weather

In Nebraska, a man’s body was found Thursday as authorities searched for a young couple who had become lost in a snowstorm. Relatives of the man, Michael Wamsley, 20, said they had been told that the body was his. The search resumed Friday for his girlfriend, Janelle Hornickel, also 20.

Officials in McDonald County, Mo., also continued hunting for a couple missing since their car was apparently swept from the road in a flash flood.

A pair of storms, meanwhile, were moving in on the West Coast, bringing fears of more beach-eroding high tides and dangerous mudslides. A regional winter storm warning was extended through Monday.

Meanwhile, snow had stopped falling in Chicago, where plowers attacked drifts that built up on side streets. City officials said the trucks would probably be out all day.

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