A broad storm system spread heavy snow across the Great Lakes region Tuesday and fired up violent thunderstorms that knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses in the Southeast.

At least two deaths were blamed on the stormy weather.

Fallen trees and other debris on roads slowed travel and several traffic accidents brought morning rush hour traffic to a standstill in Birmingham, authorities said.

A falling tree struck a mobile home and killed a 71-year-old woman in Leeds, a town outside Birmingham, The Jefferson County coroner's office said.

Utilities said about 42,000 homes and business lost electrical service across central Alabama early Tuesday. About 93,000 more were blacked out in northern Georgia, mostly in the Atlanta metropolitan area, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright.

Snow fell from Illinois to New England, with more than 6 inches on the ground by late morning in northern Indiana and Ohio. Up to a foot of snow was possible in parts of Ohio, the National Weather Service said.

Schools were closed in parts of southern Michigan and northern areas of Indiana and Ohio, where the University of Toledo also closed for the morning. Some local government buildings closed in Ohio and the Akron zoo also closed for the day.

Several accidents shut down a stretch of slippery Interstate 75 in northern Ohio, and one man died in a wreck on a snow-covered Ohio highway, police reported.