ALBUQUERQUE -- A late-autumn snowstorm lumbered into the U.S. heartland yesterday, unleashing snow and fierce winds that turned roads to ice, reduced visibility to zero and jeopardized thousands of holiday motorists' travel plans just two days before the official start of winter.

The storm was blamed for two deaths in Colorado. A guard and an inmate were killed after a prison van lost control on an icy highway on Colorado's plains.

From New Mexico and Texas through Oklahoma and Kansas, blizzard conditions put state road crews on alert and had motorists taking refuge and early exits off major roads.

Linda Pape, general manager of a Super 8 motel in New Mexico, said it was packed with unhappy skiers who had been headed to lodges in Colorado and elsewhere in New Mexico. She keeps two freezers and a refrigerator stocked in case roads are closed. "We are not letting them go hungry," she said.

With the exception of the October snowstorm blamed for 29 deaths on the East Coast, there's been little rain or snow. Many of the areas hit yesterday enjoyed balmy 60-degree temperatures just 24 hours earlier. -- AP

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