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Bitter cold follows blizzard in Plains; snow hits Southern states

December 19, 1996

STEELE, N.D. (AP) _ Bus passengers stranded in a hotel during a two-day blizzard whooped and clapped as they got back on the road, but bitter cold replaced the blowing snow.

Wintry roads caused hundreds of traffic accidents while the cold spread as far south as Texas, flooding homeless shelters and and worrying farmers. It even snowed in Florida.

Roads were reopened in North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota, where snowdrifts of up to 9 feet high were reported near Wall, S.D.

``It was miserable as heck,″ Rick Danner of Wall, S.D., said of the storm. ``Such high winds. It was almost impossible to do anything. You couldn’t really go nowhere because of all the big drifts.″

The state Highway Patrol reopened Interstate 94 between Fargo and Jamestown and I-29 from Fargo to the South Dakota border Wednesday. The patrol expected to open the rest of I-29 to the Canadian border sometime today.

At the Lone Steer motel, Greyhound buses began loading Wednesday morning to take passengers west on I-94.

``One day here was OK,″ said Denise Nicks, who was headed to Eugene, Ore., from Massachusetts to visit relatives when her bus slid into a ditch Monday near Steele. ``But two days is too much.″

About 150 travelers were stranded at the motel, some of them packed four or five to a room.

The cold killed a Colorado man who froze to death in his parked car in Denver. A Kentucky man and woman died in two of about 300 traffic accidents reported Wednesday morning.

In Bismarck early today, the thermometer stood at 22 below.

Record lows for the date were posted early today across Texas, including a reading of 30 degrees at Brownsville at the state’s southern tip. The forecast for below-freezing temperatures there had raised fears of citrus and vegetable growers in the region.

Gunnison, Colo., had a low of 35 degrees below Wednesday, while Colorado Springs, Colo., hit 11 below, breaking a 122-year-old record for the date.

Ray Reaka, men’s director at the City Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City, expected more than 100 men to spend the night there. The cold ``got some of the tougher ones out of the brush″ Tuesday night, he said.

``I wish I had a home and a heater _ mostly a heater _ and more blankets,″ said Curt Crawford, wrapping his thinly-gloved fingers around a hot cup of coffee at Tulsa’s Day Center for the Homeless.

The snow even reached sunny Florida. Motorists near Pensacola, Fla., brushed a dusting of snow off their cars Wednesday night, although most flakes melted as they hit the ground.

Schoolchildren welcomed the change in Alabama, where 1 to 3 inches of snow fell.

``I think it’s really awesome. Kids in Montgomery are not used to getting snow,″ said 14-year-old Sarah Beth Williamson, who played on the state Capitol lawn while waiting for her mother to pick her up.

``When I get home, I’m going straight to the fireplace _ and I’m changing my socks.″

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