Bitter Cold Snaps Records; Dixie in Deep Freeze
Undated (AP) _ Biting cold air snapped a dozen low temperature records Saturday from Michigan to Texas and collided with warmer air from the South to dump snow from the Southwest to New England. Thousands lost heat and electricity in icebound Dixie.
At least 24 deaths have been blamed on the storm system since Wednesday.
Forecasters were trying to confirm an unofficial temperature reading of minus 69.9 degrees Friday in Utah’s mountains, which would be the most severe cold ever recorded in the contiguous 48 states.
The second stage of winter - predicted to last six more weeks when the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow Saturday - got off to a strong start as temperatures of 10 to 25 degrees below zero were common from Montana to Michigan.
″It’s a battle between warm air to the south and very cold air to the north and the west,″ said meteorologist Phil Zinn of the National Weather Service in West Virginia, where officials braced for up to 6 more inches of snow on top of accumulations a foot deep.
Snow fell from the middle and lower Mississippi Valley to the north Atlantic Coast, while freezing rain and sleet continued over parts of the South.
Before the snow ended Saturday morning over Oklahoma, the storm had dumped 15 inches on Atoka and 14 inches on Marietta and Caddo.
At least a dozen low temperature records for Feb. 2 were broken - from 25 degrees below zero at Alpena and Marquette, Mich., and 16 below at Colorado Springs, Colo., to minus 11 at Midland, Texas, and minus 1 at San Angelo, Texas, both tying marks for the coldest temperatures ever there.
The chill will ease gradually, said meteorologist John Graff in Minneapolis, where the temperature was 19 below. ″It’s like cold glue,″ he said, saying the weather system would come unstuck slowly.
Lake Thompson, Wis., recorded a minus 40-degree reading Saturday.
The temperature in Peter Sink, Utah, - which had a minus 65.7 reading on Thursday - dropped to an unofficial 69.9 degrees below zero Friday on automated equipment, said forecaster Jim Pringle in Salt Lake City.
The coldest temperature ever in the 48 contiguous states was 69.7 below zero at Rogers Pass, Mont., in 1954. Pringle said officials would try to confirm Friday’s reading by checking a mercury thermometer in the mountainous area.
The cold, snow and ice wrought havoc in the South.
Iced pavement forced police in Mississippi to close long stretches of Interstate 55, a main north-south artery, and Interstate 20, an east-west highway.
About 5,000 customers were without electricity as the temperature dropped into the teens in the northern areas, said Mississippi Power & Light Co.
Thousands of Alabama residents who were left without power by the ice barrage went to shelters and motels Saturday, a day after Gov. George C. Wallace declared a state of emergency.
The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said some 15,000 residents of Madison County did not have power early Saturday. About 20,000 were without power on Friday, officials said.
Snow was a foot deep in northern Alabama, and 9 inches of ice paralyzed the northwest part of the state.
Billy Faye Real, deputy coordinator of the Marion County Emergency Management Agency, said ″something between snow and sleet″ was piling on the existing icy crust.
Drivers also were warned of snow and ice in parts of Oregon, northern California and the mountains of Southern California, parts of Nevada and Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
Arizona National Guard helicopters ended their airlift to snowbound Indians Saturday and were returning to Phoenix. The Arizona Humane Society said it had trucked about 25 tons of hay and 3,000 pounds of dog food to animals on the Hopi and Navajo reservations.
Since Wednesday, 13 people have died in weather-related traffic accidents in Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas; two men froze to death in Tennessee and Oklahoma; an Oklahoma woman died of hypothermia after a traffic accident; and a Missouri man, two Mississippi children and a Kentucky woman and her four grandchildren died in blazes authorities said were caused by space heaters.