Stranded motorists rescued in western N.Y.

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

About 100 motorists, stranded Friday in snowbound cars on the New York State Thruway southwest of Buffalo, were finally being freed.

Troopers used all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles to keep in touch with motorists who got stuck when blinding snow shut down a stretch of Interstate 90 from Dunkirk, N.Y., to Erie, Pa., at about 1:30 a.m.

A deadly, windy storm paralyzed much of the nation on Thursday. Power failures in the Midwest, stranded hunters in the West and howling winds that helped blow over a bus in New York provided miseries from the first major storm of the season.

In Buffalo, emergency crews topped off gas tanks and checked on stranded motorists by cell phone during the night before starting to turn drivers around and guide them off the closed roadway Friday morning. The Thruway planned to shutdown for the rest of the day.

"We're getting people U-turned," Capt. Michael P. Nigrelli told The Buffalo News. He was leading the rescue efforts for the State Police. "We've made good progress."

Another 5 to 9 inches of heavy and damp snow was expected over northern New York, though western Michigan was expected to see an inch or two on Friday.

Storm pummels nation
Meanwhile, a storm dumped more ice, snow and freezing rain throughout the Midwest.

See images from the dangerous snowstorm that is sweeping across the nation.

Back-to-back storms also moved through Southern California, snarling Friday morning traffic with fender-benders and prompting new mudslide worries in fire-scarred areas. An overnight storm dumped about a quarter-inch of rain in Los Angeles and more than a half-inch in Burbank, the National Weather Service said.

In Wisconsin, the state faced another day with sub-zero wind chills before average early-December temperatures set in.

Behind this system, slightly warmer temperatures were expected as clockwise flow around the ridge pulled warmer air into the Northern and Central Plains.

New England was expected to remain in the 20s and 30s, while temperatures in the teens were forecast for the Midwest.

Deep freeze
Across the nation Thursday, the wintry weather sent people to emergency rooms for slips and falls, while tow trucks worked overtime and many people simply struggled to get around in frigid winds.

At least 17 people died in the meandering storm, including a man found Wednesday outside his pickup in central Iowa and a North Carolina driver killed when a tree was blown onto his pickup.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.