Don Anderson, deputy director of the California Department of Transportation in Redding, says Caltrans and many other agencies worked hard to communicate the seriousness of the storm but that many drivers were still caught by surprise.
Heavy snows will also spread into Utah, dumping several inches in Salt Lake City and far more in the popular ski resorts of the Wasatch Range, such as Park City.
At the peak of the storm, Pacific Power said 19,000 customers were without power in Northern California and Southern Oregon.
As of Wednesday afternoon, places like MSP Airport and Minnetonka accumulated over 9 inches of snow.
A major highway linking California and OR fully reopened late Wednesday, almost 24 hours after a major storm blew in off the Pacific Ocean and slammed the region with heavy snow, gale-force winds and drenching rain. According to the Weather Channel, the Capital Region could get up to 11 inches of snow this Sunday into early Monday morning.
More than 200 miles of Interstate 80 have been closed for almost 24 hours due to the heavy snow, the Wyoming Department of Transportation said. Spokesman Brad Hawkins said it would take "a couple of days" to get stranded passengers on other flights because there are few during the pre-Thanksgiving travel crush.
The storm dumped almost 3 feet (1 meter) of snow in parts of northern Colorado and closed long stretches of highways there and in Wyoming.
Airport workers handed out blankets, baby formula and diapers, and restaurants stayed open longer than usual, she said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Macy's (NYSE: M) Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is unlikely to feature the iconic balloons this year due to strong wind gusts facing the city.
The New York City regulations bar the flying of balloons if winds exceeds 23 miles per hour and gusts of 34 miles per hour, added CNN.
"That could be a coast-to-coast storm", he said.
The storm system could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown during the parade.
Organizers have said they will make the decision on Thursday whether to go ahead.