A merciless storm took its high winds, rain and fierce tornadoes to the East yesterday after unleashing dozens of twisters on the nation's midsection and blasting the West with snow and rain. Nationwide, 31 people were killed and hundreds injured.

The tornadoes--79 were reported Friday and yesterday within a triangle bounded by Texas, Ohio and Georgia--wrecked millions of dollars in property, left hundreds homeless, cut off power and snapped utility poles and trees. The storm derailed part of a train, blew apart a post office and swooped down to kill 35,000 chickens in their coop.

The twisters were spawned by the collision of cold air from the north and warm air from the south. Tornadoes or high winds killed people in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia and Wisconsin.

Rescuers searched for more bodies in a 1,200-foot by four-mile swath of destruction in Paris, a northeast Texas town of 25,000, where 10 people were confirmed dead and as many as 200 others injured.

Ten tornadoes struck 20 sites across Arkansas. Near the rural town of Hope, a family of five was killed when a tornado threw a tree on their home. The family was found huddled under a mattress in the center of the house.

Minnesota woke up to a born-again winter, as temperatures plummeted and winds gusting to 72 mph whipped fresh snow in blizzard-like conditions. A 20-car pileup was reported near Minneapolis, but with no serious injuries.

In Chicago, high winds blew an Eastern Airlines DC9 partly off a taxiing strip at O'Hare Airport. The plane carried only crew members and no one was injured.

In Northern California, a dozen cross-country skiers from the University of California overdue from a week's trip through a high Sierra pass paralyzed by 15-foot blizzards and avalanches skied out safely yesterday.