A vicious storm raked the Midwest with blinding snow driven by wind gusting to 75 mph yesterday, closing airports and schools and downing power lines after burying the Southwest in snow and spawning killer tornadoes in Arkansas.

At least 23 deaths have been attributed to the storm since Saturday.

"We've gone through rain, heavy rain, light snow, heavy snow, slush, sleet, high winds, thunder and lightning," said Kirsten Svare of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Schools were closed in parts of Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa and Kansas.

Highways remained icy or snow-packed across the Plains, which the storm crossed Monday after dumping as much as 30 inches of snow at the Sandia Peak ski area near Albuquerque. Even where snow was melting, "there's 2 to 3 inches of ice underneath," an Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman said.

A woman whose car slid into a ditch Monday afternoon near Wichita was not found until 3 a.m. yesterday. "She was okay, very calm," Sedgwick County sheriff's Lt. Jerry King said.

Thunderstorms erupted alongside the storm in parts of the South and, ahead of the storm, rain and sleet moved into New England, icing many Massachusetts roads.

"It will probably end up being one of major storms of the whole season," said Hugh Crowther of the National Weather Service's Severe Storms Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Behind the storm, cold air swirled southward, giving Colorado its coldest night of the season with lows of zero or below, including 16 below at Winter Park.

In Midland, Tex., temperatures went from a record high of 84 Friday to a record low of 11 yesterday. Riverside, Calif., had a record low of 28, and Tucson had a record low of 23.

A new storm building over the Pacific was expected to hit southern California today with heavy rain just three days after the first storm raked the area with high wind.

The strongest part of the first storm yesterday was over southeastern Wisconsin, where blizzard conditions kept many people home.

Wisconsin Legislature employes were told to stay home, and committee hearings were canceled. Milwaukee County Executive William O'Donnell closed county government except for emergencies.

The city's Mitchell Airport, where the 12.2 inches of snow was the most reported in the state in December in 30 years, was closed because plow drivers could not see.

About 11 inches of snow fell in Chicago, and O'Hare International Airport was closed at 5 a.m. CST for the first time since 1979. Two runways reopened five hours later. Wind gusts to 75 mph prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to evacuate the control tower briefly.

Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City reopened after being closed overnight.

Wind as high as 70 mph derailed six train cars in a Conrail yard west of Indianapolis, authorities said. A shopping center wall collapsed at Kokomo, Ind., and sections of roofing were blown away throughout the Midwest.