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Winter came out swinging Tuesday as the second storm of the week pummeled the nation's midsection and the East Coast hunkered down for an overnight onslaught of snow and ice.

All told, more than 115 million people in 32 states were in the path of a storm that threatened to cut power, ground flights and snarl traffic — again. Governors in states from Arkansas to New Jersey declared emergencies.

"It's another one of these significant snowstorms, covering a large swath of the country," said Kevin Roth of The Weather Channel, who added that a long arm of the Northeast — from central New York into New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts — could be pounded by more than 12 inches of snow.

"Tomorrow morning's commute looks to be pretty unseemly for them," he said.

Major cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington will likely avoid the worst, but officials cautioned residents to brace for bone-chilling rain and ice.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for New York City beginning overnight and running until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Utility company Con Edison warned residents that a combination of snow and freezing rain could trigger power failures across the city. Meanwhile, another storm warning was out for the northern counties of New Jersey.

The storm smashed through the Plains on Tuesday, hitting Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma with snow that forecasters said could stack up to as much as a foot before moving north to drop 5 to 8 inches on Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit.

By midnight ET, more than 1,600 flights into or out of U.S. airports had been canceled, about a fifth of them at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings across 15 states early Tuesday from the Rockies to southern Maine.

"It's going to be like a hammer coming down I-70," said Jim Cantore, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, reporting from Kansas City, Mo.

Marissa Ellison, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Transportation Department, said road conditions throughout northeast Missouri were "awful," with whiteout conditions in many areas.

"We currently have a no-travel advisory out, and it needs to be taken seriously," Ellison told NBC station WGEM.

By midnight ET, more than 1,600 flights into or out of U.S. airports had been canceled, about a fifth of them at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

In Springfield, Mo., a man waded waist-deep into a freezing pond Tuesday morning to rescue two women who'd skidded off the road and through the ice.

The man, Donovan Hensley, saw the women waving their arms from the roof of their sport-utility vehicle as it sank into the water, NBC station KYTV reported.

"I remember grabbing their purses and throwing them up on the bank and just said, 'One at a time — jump towards me,'" Hensley said.

The women were reported to be frightened but otherwise unhurt. Hensley, meanwhile, rejected the idea that he was a hero.

"Right place, right time," he told KYTV. "If you'd have been driving by, you would have done the same thing.”

As they braced for another round of wicked weather, many people on the East Coast were still reeling from Monday's dump of snow and ice.

At least two deaths and one serious injury could be blamed on Monday's storm and its cleanup: In western Kentucky, where the snow began to fall Sunday, a 24-year-old man died after his car skidded into a snowplow, officials told NBC station WFIE of Evansville, Ind.

Meanwhile, in New York, a 73-year-old man was struck and killed by a snowplow that was backing up on a Brooklyn street, police told NBC New York.

A 10-year-old girl also was recovering at home Tuesday after she was impaled in the back Monday by a metal rod while sledding in Jarrettsville, Md., north of Baltimore, NBC station WBAL reported.

A third storm is also likely to form over the weekend, said Guy Walton, a forecaster with The Weather Channel, although it's too early to tell the storm's orientation or path.

Millions in the U.S. have already suffered from an unforgiving winter, especially through the month of January. And last week, Southern states like Georgia and Alabama were caught flatfooted by just a few inches of snow — leaving motorists and schoolchildren unable to get home.

M. Alex Johnson and Henry Austin of NBC News contributed to this report.