Cold Snap Continues, Killing Hundreds of Farm Animals; Mardi Gras Goes On
Undated (AP) _ Idaho National Guard troops Tuesday helped rescue livestock stranded by 15-foot snow drifts that have buried hundreds of other animals, while the nation’s deadly cold snap pushed temperatures to record lows in several states.
Some California citrus growers feared the arctic air caused millions of dollars in crop damage. And in Las Vegas, which dropped to a record low 16 degrees, sheets of ice covered casino fountains and backyard swimming pools.
It got so cold in Houston that even criminals stayed home, police said.
But Mardi Gras revelers didn’t let a little cold stop them. Men in miniskirts pranced through New Orleans’ French Quarter in near-freezing weather, as others pitched tents along parade routes.
″I live to just go up and down the street and get my picture taken,″ said a man in black lace corset, garters and goosebumps who refused to be identified.
At least 83 deaths have been blamed on the cold weather since Jan. 31, when frigid air blew out of Alaska and into the lower 48 states.
In Kentucky, doctors tried to save a 7-year-old boy who had been submerged for about 40 minutes in a pond. They used a heart bypass pump that removed the boy’s blood, rewarmed it and put it back into his body. But the boy died, 17 hours after he was rescued. His 9-year-old brother, who also fell through thin ice, had died earlier.
Schools were closed in parts of Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and elsewhere. Scattered power outages were reported in several states, including Texas, Utah, Colorado and Mississippi.
Snow fell over parts of New Mexico, Texas, from northern New York state across northern Ohio, the upper Great Lakes, Minnesota and North Dakota.
Record low temperatures were reported in several cities: Alamosa, Colo., had 30 degrees below zero; Sacramento, Calif., broke a 106-year-old record low for the date with 26 degrees; San Francisco hit 32; and Milford and Vernal, Utah, had their coldest February days ever with minus 29 and minus 38 degrees respectively. Boca Reservoir near Truckee, Calif., was 43 degrees below zero, the coldest February reading ever in California, forecasters said.
In Dubois, Idaho, two dozen National Guard troops used front-end loaders to battle snow drifts up to 8 feet tall that have blocked city streets since last week.
″People can’t even get out of their driveways,″ said Reed Fanning of the Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services.
A Guard helicopter flew over the surrounding countryside in search of surviving livestock stranded in snow-covered fields. Hundreds of animals were already dead. Guardsmen prepared to use the helicopter to drop hay to stranded cattle and sheep.
County Commissioner Ab Laird said fewer than 300 of his 980 sheep had survived the snow and cold, and only seven of 787 cows had been found alive on his property in eastern Idaho. Snow had accumulated as deep as 15 feet.
Gordon Wanek, an Oregon cattleman with ranches in La Pine and Fort Rock, said he took newborn calves into his house because of the cold.
″I had three calves in my house Saturday night - two in the bathroom and one in the kitchen,″ Wanek said. ″If we don’t get to the calves within 20 minutes after they’re born, we just have to kiss them off. There’s no way to revive them.″
In Angleton, Texas, the cold drove rats into one home.
A group of residents rounded up 22 rats that tried to warm up next to a clothes dryer vent blowing warm air. The rats were put in an empty cooler and let loose in a field.
The cold took its toll in California, where citrus growers in the San Joaquin Valley used smudge pots and large fans in an effort to save their fragile crops. Some growers predicted the freeze damaged 25 percent of their citrus crops.
″The lemon crop in the San Joaquin Valley may have been obliterated,″ said Richard Pescosolido, farm manager for Sequoia Orange Co. in Exeter, Calif.
Washington’s apricot crop was wiped out by the cold, according to county extension agents.
But the cold apparently spared Texas citrus growers, said Bill Weeks, vice president of the Texas Citrus and Vegetable Association.
More than 400 people jammed homeless shelters in Reno, Nev., as the temperature fell to a record minus 16.
″We took in more people than we were supposed to,″ said Salvation Army Capt. Kenneth Osbourn. ″We can’t turn anybody out in this kind of weather.″
In Las Vegas, workers at glitzy Caesars Palace shut down fountains in front of the resort to keep water from freezing in the valves that produce the display, spokeswoman Debbie Munch said.
A thin sheet of ice covered the fountain pools. Residents’ swimming pools also were frozen and thousands of people had broken water pipes.
It’s been so cold in Texas that criminals are staying off the streets, police said.
″We haven’t had a doggone call up here all day,″ said Sgt. Dan Silva of the Houston Police Department robbery division.