Rain, sleet and snow pelted the East, threatening to push streams over their banks in already drenched North Carolina Tuesday after heavy snow forced the closure of the Missouri Legislature and stopped the mail in Oklahoma.

The weather was blamed for at least 24 deaths, with nine in Missouri, including three people who collapsed after shoveling snow.The storm caused millions of dollars in damage to poultry operations in a four-state region as poultry houses collapsed under the weight of the snow.

The bad weather also forced President Bush to cancel a trip Tuesday to Lancaster, Pa., and Wilmington, Del.

Up to 10 inches of snow kept some schools in southern Illinois closed Tuesday. Some schools were also closed Tuesday in Maryland and Delaware because of icy roads.

A storm system over North Carolina brought rain and snow to the Atlantic seaboard early Tuesday. Snow extended from the mid-Atlantic Coast to southern New England and the Ohio Valley.

"The ground is very wet and saturated," said Dennis Decker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, N.C. "It won't take much in the way of additional rain to produce a quick rise on some of the smaller creeks and streams."

Rain caused flooding across southern West Virginia, closing roads in 14 counties, and in Tennessee, about 120 families were forced to evacuate from along the swollen Cumberland and Harpeth rivers.

The heaviest snowfalls - 16 inches - were recorded in parts of Missouri and Oklahoma. Up to 10 inches covered the Laurel Mountains of western Pennsylvania on Monday.

The Missouri Legislature canceled Monday's and Tuesday's morning's sessions because of the storm.

Nine inches of snow snarled traffic in Tulsa, Okla., prompting even the intrepid U.S. Postal Service to call off most deliveries Monday.

"Today our rule of thumb is, if the carriers can deliver by walking from the station they will. If they have to drive, forget it," said Bob Hunt, director of city operations for the U.S. Postal Service.

The St. Louis area received 11 inches of snow, the third largest accumulation for a 24-hour period in March since record-keeping began in 1874.