No rest from the bitter cold

December 16, 2008 5:48:31 PM PST
Freezing air blanketed much of the nation Tuesday, making roads hazardous in Texas and slowing recovery from ice storm blackouts in New England, in the second day of a bitter cold wave. Temperatures were 20 below zero and lower across the northern Plains, and a band of snow, freezing rain and sleet stretched from Kansas along the Ohio Valley to Maine.

Dozens of schools closed in Kentucky and Tennessee because of slippery roads and salt truck crews started working before dawn. Up to a half-foot of snow had fallen in parts of Kentucky.

"It's pretty treacherous," said Jodi Shacklette, a Kentucky State Police dispatcher in Elizabethtown. "We're working wrecks just left and right."

Police in North Texas had to close some highway overpasses because they were so slippery with ice.

Some of the sharpest cold Tuesday was in northern Minnesota, where Hibbing bottomed out at 32 below zero and International Falls dropped to 28 below. In the middle of the state, St. Cloud fell to 24 below, breaking its old record of 21 below set in 1963.

The weather service posted winter storm warnings Tuesday for parts of the Southwest - where New Mexico had numerous school closings, including those in Albuquerque - and the Ohio Valley.

Winter weather advisories were in effect across the Midwest and from Texas to New England, where utilities were still repairing power lines snapped by last week's devastating ice storm.

New Hampshire utilities reported roughly 113,000 homes and businesses still without power Tuesday, down from a peak of 430,000. Central Maine Power said about 10,700 customers were still in the dark and a spokesman said it expected to have power restored Wednesday. About 77,000 customers are still waiting for service in Massachusetts, state officials said.

New Hampshire residents were warned Tuesday that some of them might have to wait longer than expected for electricity.

"It's fair to say there may be some pockets of customers that would be (without power) beyond the weekend," said Tom Goetz, chairman of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. In places, he said, utility workers must still wait for other crews to clear fallen limbs and other debris before they can reach outages.

While the cold slammed across the West and Midwest on Monday, the Northeast had enjoyed unseasonably mild weather, with temperatures above 50 in New England and to 65 in New York City.

"Finally, everyone is walking around in the neighborhood. It is so nice," said JoAnn Trudeau, 62, who hasn't had power since Friday morning at her home in Hooksett, N.H., near Manchester.

However, the cold also was moving into the Northeast. Manchester had a 9 a.m. temperature Tuesday of 37 and readings were expected to go down during the day, not up.

Even Southern California was warned of temperatures felling into the mid-30s by late Wednesday.

On Monday, thermometers read 31 below Monday in Glasgow, Mont., and the wind chill was 45 below, the weather service said. The Texas Panhandle had lows in the single digits, and Goodland, Kan., registered a record low of minus 10.

The cold wave and storms that accompanied had been implicated in at least 14 deaths. An avalanche in Colorado killed a Ski Patrol member, and exposure probably killed an 87-year-old man found outside his Montana nursing home. Weather-related traffic accidents were blamed for three deaths in Oklahoma, one in Illinois and two each in Minnesota, Missouri and California. In Northern California, a man was washed off a jetty by large waves and a homeless woman died of exposure.


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