Undated (AP) _ The arrival of winter today brought another punishing blast of arctic air, dropping temperatures well below zero from Wyoming to Michigan, giving shivers to the Deep South and stopping a passenger train in North Dakota.

Forecasters said the polar winds blamed in at least 42 deaths around the country in the past week may stop by Christmas. But the cold had much of the nation well prepared for the 4:22 p.m. EST start of winter.

''I doubt we'll notice it,'' said Terry Conroy, a street cleaner in Syracuse, N.Y., where crews have had to remove snow almost daily in the past few weeks.

The National Weather Service's Albany, N.Y., bureau described the weather as ''cold, with a double underline on that.'' In Chicago, where a minus 13 reading this morning broke a minus 12 record for the date set in 1872, the weather service warned travelers to ''dress for arctic cold.''

It was so cold in Minot, N.D., that the fuel froze in an engine of a train bound for Chicago from Seattle, stranding about 300 passengers and crew overnight, said Mike Kirka, an Amtrak ticket agent in Chicago.

The temperature was about 30 below, with the wind chill near minus 80, when the train pulled into the Minot station shortly before midnight, Kirka said. The engine wouldn't restart, and after three hours passengers were put up at hotels at Amtrak's expense, he said.

In addition to the 42 cold-related deaths, authorities in Philadelphia were investigating the deaths of a homeless man who was found Wednesday on an outdoor vent wrapped in blankets and two elderly people who died in a home with no heat.

Wind chills were expected today to be as low as 80 below in North Dakota, 75 below in Minnesota and 65 below in Missouri. People were urged to stay indoors, and some schools were closed today in North Dakota and Nebraska.

Today's low temperature in the Lower 48 states was minus 43 at Jordan, Mont.

Other early morning temperatures included minus 28 in Bismarck, N.D.; minus 22 in Minneapolis-St. Paul; 17 below in Des Moines, Iowa; minus 20 in Omaha, Neb.; minus 12 in Rapid City, S.D.; 16 below in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and minus 9 in Casper, Wyo.

Little Rock, Ark., was a chilly 20, while Fort Worth, Texas, was 24.

But today's surge of arctic air into northern Minnesota appeared to be the last in the series of blasts that have crossed the border into Minnesota and plagued the eastern half of the nation for 10 days, the weather service said.

''The trend looks hopeful for a change in the cold northwest flow to a more westerly flow on the weekend over Minnesota,'' the weather service said. ''This means a very slow moderation in temperatures by Sunday and Christmas Day.''

On the last day of fall, gusty winds dropped the wind chill to 81 below zero at Minot, N.D., 75 below at Devils Lake, N.D., 69 below at Alexandria, Minn., and Jamestown, N.D., and 61 below at Aberdeen, S.D.

The southern edge of the cold air on Wednesday extended from New York state across Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and central Montana.

By today, the cold dipped to northern Texas and northern Louisiana. The temperature in Amarillo, Texas, dropped to 1 degree overnight. By Friday, the arctic was expected to invade North Carolina and northern Georgia.

The weather service forecast a ''major freeze'' across the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas from tonight into Saturday.

In the Midwest, many authorities warned people to take precautions against the cold. Sheriff Stan Lyson of Williams County, N.D., urged residents to stay home unless travel was absolutely necessary.

He suggested Christmas travelers inform someone of their destination and the route they plan to take. ''I don't think anyone would last out there very long,'' Lyson said.

Temperatures hovered around 10 degrees Wednesday in Rochester, N.Y., but the wind made it feel like 25 below zero. ''The place is packed with people drinking hot toddies at the bar,'' said Mary Camp, bookkeeper at the Sea Breeze Inn.

The weather service's official low temperature for the Lower 48 states Wednesday was 34 below zero at International Falls and Warroad, Minn., both on the Canadian border. Embarrass, an Iron Range town in northeastern Minnesota, reached an unofficial 37 below zero.

Wednesday's high at International Falls was only 21 degrees below zero.

In the southern Chicago suburb of Harvey, the bitter cold burst a 24-inch water main, cutting service to six communities.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 motorists called for help starting their cars, the Automobile Association of America-Chicago Motor Club said.

Snow fell from the northern Rockies across the northern Plains and around the Great Lakes, where ''lake effect'' snow fed by the moisture of the lakes piled up 4-foot drifts in western New York state.

The weather service at Syracuse had measured 50.4 inches of snow for the fall. At this time last year, only 27.2 inches of snow had fallen.

Unusually low temperatures this month have strained utilities throughout New York and New England, and could bring brownouts in some areas as winter progresses, officials said.

Temperatures 10 degrees lower than normal for this time of year have forced New York, New England and the Maryland-Pensylvannia-New Jersey power pools to share electricity.