Travelers trying to get home after Thanksgiving were stranded across the Great Plains on Monday as the region's first big snowstorm of the season closed hundreds of miles of highways, cutting visibility to zero and piling up drifts six feet high.

Snow driven by winds as high as 69 mph fell from North Dakota to the Texas Panhandle, shutting down schools and the South Dakota state government.

Five deaths were blamed on slippery roads in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. A sixth person was killed when a tornado hurled a car in Arkansas.

Eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 were closed for nearly 350 miles from Denver across the Plains to Russell, Kan. Westbound lanes were reopened in some areas. The Colorado portion of I-70 was dry Monday, but the highway was impassable in western Kansas because visibility was nearly zero.

Many other highways also were closed across the Plains, including a 175-mile stretch of I-90 across South Dakota, and a 60-mile stretch of I-80 in Nebraska. Hundreds of travelers were stranded.

Wind, snow and ice in South Dakota snapped electrical lines -- coating some cables with ice a few inches thick -- and knocked out power to thousands of customers.

The same storm whipped up tornadoes that destroyed at least eight houses in Arkansas on Sunday and damaged more than 30 homes at Fort Riley, Kan.

Grass fires driven by the storm system's wind blackened thousands of acres in Texas and Oklahoma. Several houses were destroyed in the two states, and hundreds of families had to evacuate in Oklahoma.