OMAHA, Neb. - Drifting snow and cold rain that have plagued much of the country for days stranded drivers and airline passengers yesterday who were trying to get home after Christmas.

Storms from Texas to the Upper Midwest that dumped 23.9 inches of snow in Grand Forks, N.D., and 18 inches near Norfolk, Neb., began subsiding, but blowing and drifting snow hampered visibility in many areas. Several motorists abandoned their vehicles on snow-covered roads in northeast Nebraska.

Warmer weather and rain in the East began melting and washing away last week's record snowfalls, threatening the region with flooding.

In Chicago, one of the nation's busiest travel hubs, snow and ice, combined with rain on the East Coast, canceled or delayed more than 300 flights.

A few dozen flights were delayed and a few canceled yesterday in southern Wisconsin. The National Weather Service issued a winter-weather advisory through last evening, and 3 to 5 inches of snow was expected by this morning.

Flights also were delayed, mostly for weather reasons, at the three major airports in the New York area, which was getting rain and patchy fog.

Later yesterday, officials at Reagan Washington National Airport evacuated part of a terminal and closed a baggage-claim area after a problem with a pipe caused flooding.

Transportation officials closed a 30-mile stretch of I-70 between Goodland, Kan., and Burlington, Colo. Officials also had closed interstate highways in Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Wyoming, but some reopened as the storm began to abate.

In South Dakota, state troopers assisted 182 people who were stranded in their vehicles or needed help getting through snowy roads, Col. Dan Mosteller said.

Hundreds of customers remained without power for a third day in southeastern Nebraska and south-central South Dakota. Mark Becker of the Nebraska Public Power District said high winds could cause additional power failures during the weekend.

South Dakota officials reported several roof collapses from the weight of the snow, including a livestock barn near Baltic, where at least 25 cattle were trapped and some of them killed.

Chad Omitt, a meteorologist in Topeka, Kan., said the storm knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes, including in Topeka, where about 15,000 were without power at the peak of the outage.

His own sons - ages 9, 6, and 4 - opened their presents by flashlight and candles after waking up about 5:45 a.m. on Christmas in a chilly house that was without electricity.

"I don't know how enjoyable it was for them," he said.

In parts of New England, a wintry mix of rain, freezing rain, and light snow made for slippery travel. A freezing-rain advisory was extended through 6 a.m. today for parts of western Massachusetts.

Winter weather has been blamed for more than 20 deaths across the country in the last week.