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Bitter Cold Settles in After Storm

January 5, 1999

Low on groceries, Rena Crocker pushed through bone-chilling wind and blowing snow to reach a friend’s home in Buffalo, N.Y. With her was her 7-year-old son, Julian, so wrapped up that only his eyes and snow-covered lashes were visible.

``This is outrageous. This is just crazy!″ said Crocker as she trudged along. ``I’m used to Buffalo winters, but this ... .″

The storm left waist-high snowdrifts in western New York, dumping up to 15 inches as it closed highways, businesses and airports Monday. An additional 6 inches fell overnight and schools in the snow-savvy city were closed again today. Part of Interstate 90 was closed Monday and the last 60-mile stretch didn’t reopen until this morning.

It was the latest blow in the arctic blast that began over the weekend with up to 2 feet of snow in places in the Midwest, and plunged the eastern two-thirds of the nation to record low temperatures today.

This morning dawned as the coldest on record in Illinois with a reading of 36 degrees below zero at the town of Congerville, about 120 miles southwest of Chicago in the central part of thestate. The state’s previous all-time record of 35 below was set on Jan. 22, 1930, in Mount Carroll in northwestern Illinois.

Thermometers at Lincoln and Champaign, Ill., registered lows today of 25 below zero, and Crawfordsville, Ind., fell to 26 below. Wind chills on the northern Plains measured 60 below zero.

Temperatures were in the teens across much of the South early today, with Meridian, Miss., hitting a record low for the date of 11 and even New Orleans chilling to a record 20. Jackson, Tenn., had a low of just 6 above zero.

And with temperatures in the teens in upstate South Carolina, which got an ice storm during the weekend, some 54,000 customers still had no electricity today.

At least 89 deaths had been blamed on the weather from the Plains across the Midwest into Ontario, many of them from traffic accidents.

Airports around the nation were still having trouble accommodating passengers, even in areas where the storm is long gone.

Early today, stranded passengers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport received more bad news as Northwest Airlines canceled about 100 flights because it had trouble getting crews in. A foot of snow was on the ground in Detroit.

A Northwest spokesman in Minneapolis said the airline had canceled more than 1,100 flights since Saturday.

Many customers were angered by the third consecutive day of delays. Not Alvin Tam, a 24-year-old circus performer trying to get to Edmonton, Alberta, from Detroit.

``I don’t really care, I’m going to get home eventually,″ Tam said. ``The best way to stay sane is to watch all the people complaining and you realize it’s all just a big Freudian experiment.″

The heavy snow also caused an 8-foot tear in the roof of the Pontiac Silverdome, home of pro football’s Detroit Lions in Pontiac, Mich.

Many states struggled to clear roads Monday as the work week began.

In Indiana, where up to 22 inches fell on the northern counties, plows created roadside snowbanks higher than cars. Legislative leaders postponed the beginning of their 1999 session from today until at least Wednesday because of the travel problems.

In Illinois, which saw similar snow totals in Chicago and elsewhere, Gov. Jim Edgar declared the state a disaster area. In addition to allowing the state to coordinate state resources to aid local governments, the declaration allows eligible counties to seek federal help.

While the snow and cold crippled normal routines for some, others went about their typical day. Some even relished in the icy weather.

``You just layer yourself real good,″ said Pat Dwyer of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, as he went ice fishing Monday on a creek at the mouth of Lake Erie. ``I put on three or four pairs of underwear.″

Thousands of children were among those enjoying the fringe benefits of the storm, as schools were closed for a second day today in some states. For some parents, it was an unwelcome extension of the holiday vacation.

``I’m a little stir crazy right now,″ said Carole Johnson, who was forced to use a vacation day from her job after schools were closed in Dayton, Ohio.

Lisa Rismiller watched her two sons, ages 7 and 10, build a snow fort in the front yard of the family’s Vandalia, Ohio, home.

``As much as the kids like playing in the snow, I think they’re ready to go back to school,″ she said. ``They do get a little bored. We’ve watched quite a few movies over the past few days.″

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