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Latest Cold Wave Wreaks Havoc Across Almost All of Nation

December 29, 1990

Undated (AP) _ Another arctic cold wave rolled across the United States, knocking out power to thousands, stranding holiday travelers, taking lives and threatening what was left of California’s frost-ravaged citrus crop and the very trees themselves.

The latest cold front, accompanied by howling winds, freezing rain and snow, hit most of the continental United States on Friday, leaving only parts of the Southeast untouched.

It was expected to keep an icy grip on most of the nation at least through Sunday, although parts of the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, were warming up today after heavy snows made roads treacherous Friday.

But in the Dakotas, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, temperatures plummeted. Dickinson, N.D., plunged to a record early this morning at minus 25 degrees, or three degrees colder than in 1946. Williston recorded 28 below. Gusty northwest winds made it feel more like 80 below in western North Dakota overnight, the National Weather Service said.

In Iowa on Friday night, more than 70 cars and trucks slid into ditches or into each other on ice-glazed Interstate 35 north of Des Moines, but no serious injuries were reported.

″All I know is it’s really bad,″ said Lori Pruismann, a cashier at Touchdown truck stop near Webster City. ″Most truckers are staying right where they’re at.″

One day after Pennsylvania residents struggled with snow up to 16 inches deep, they are facing another hurdle to driving - fog.

″The whole state’s pretty much blanketed in fog,″ Doug Young, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said today.

The fog is produced by warm air moving over the cold snow, causing the snow to evaporate. Visibility in many places this morning ranged from a half-mile to zero, according to the weather service.

In California, highs were expected to reach the 40s and 50s, but inland lows in the 20s were predicted, further threatening the state’s embattled citrus crop.

″It won’t be the bitter cold that occurred last weekend, but people will still have to take care to shelter plants and animals,″ said Betty Reo of the National Weather Service in California. ″In the coldest areas, farmers will suffer more crop damage.″

Growers estimate half the state’s navel orange crop, $288 million worth, was destroyed by the last cold snap. Now they are worried about the citrus trees themselves.

″How much can (the trees) take? Night after night after night. And then they get hit again,″ said Tom McNair, a statistician with the state Department of Agriculture.

Elsewhere, the latest round of storms knocked out power to tens of thousands on Friday; stranded thousands more on roads, in homes or at airports; resulted in hundreds of injuries; and claimed several lives.

There have been more than 90 weather-related deaths since the wave of cold began Dec. 18.

In New York City, one person was killed and 150 injured when heavy snow caused an electrical short-circuit that filled a subway tunnel with smoke. A second rider died of her injuries today.

Two men in Connecticut suffered fatal heart attacks while shoveling snow, a 17-year-old Connecticut youth died when the car he was riding in overturned, a 7-year-old Ohio boy was killed when a mound of snow fell on him and a woman in Washington state was killed when heavy winds blew a tree onto her car.

Heavy fog delayed flights in and out of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport overnight, and fog in Oklahoma City closed the Will Rogers World Airport for several hours early Friday.

In Montana, scores of travelers flocked to a Red Cross shelter in Kalispell after abandoning their cars along snowbound highways.

In Arkansas, an ice storm sent trees crashing into power lines, knocking out electricity to about 70,000 homes. About 700 were expected to remain without power today.

Washington state, blasted by heavy snow last week, was hit by fierce winds in the western part of the state and snow to the east on Friday.

The winds knocked out power to about 150,000, blew down hundreds of trees and whipped up heavy surf that damaged a half-dozen homes on Vashon Island, south of Seattle.

About 85,000 customers were without power late Friday and many were expected to go without through the weekend.

Crews in Ortonville, Minn., worked in below-zero temperatures today to restore power, which went out about 9:30 p.m. Friday. The entire western Minnesota city of some 2,600 residents was affected as the wind-chill index dropped to about 50 below zero.

In eastern Washington, officials worried that frigid temperatures today might create ice jams that would cause rivers to flood.

More cold weather and snow was also forecast for parts of Nevada and Arizona over the weekend, although some in Arizona were looking forward to the prospect.

″We need it for our water table and for the health of the forest,″ said Tim Grier, owner of Forest Lakes Touring Center and Cabins.

Update hourly