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Windchill Factor Hits 85 Below Zero in Spots : Records Topple as Bitter Cold Grips U.S.

January 21, 1985|From Times Wire Services

Low temperature records shattered like icicles Sunday from the Upper Midwest to the Gulf states, with the windchill factor 85 below zero in spots.

Record low readings for the date were recorded in at least 58 cities, including Chicago, which reached 27 degrees below zero, toppling the old record of 26 below set on Jan. 10, 1982. The windchill made it feel like 80 below.

Sixteen deaths have been blamed on the cold weather.

Citrus workers used heaters and smudge pots to try to protect Florida's billion-dollar industry from the onslaught of arctic air that brought sleet and light snow to the region.

Temperatures Plunge Temperatures nose-dived as a cold front swung across the South. In Birmingham, Ala., temperatures dropped from 31 at midnight Saturday to 7 less than 9 hours later. At Lubbock, Tex., the temperature fell 61 degrees in 12 hours--from 72 to 11--early Sunday.

"It would probably rank as one of the major cold snaps of the century," forecaster John Hendrickson said in Indianapolis.

Atlanta posted a record low of 7 degrees Sunday morning, and 25 m.p.h. wind made it feel like 35 below zero, the National Weather Service said. Sunday night the temperature in Atlanta dropped to 3 below zero.

The windchill at Lexington, Ky., was calculated at 60 below zero.

The cold was accompanied by snow as far south as Shreveport, La., and Jackson, Miss., and Tennessee got up to 11 inches over Knox County north of Knoxville.

Freezing rain mixed with sleet and light snow fell on New Orleans early Sunday. The city has not seen any snow accumulation since 1963. The 24-mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway at New Orleans was among many bridges closed because of ice.

Record lows also were reported in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Iowa, West Virginia, Illinois, Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, Wyoming and Oklahoma.

Estherville, Iowa, near the Minnesota border, reported a low of 27 below and a windchill of 85 below. "You try to be properly clothed, but the wind still goes right through you," airport manager Steve Pritts said.

Behind the cold air, temperatures rose in parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas, the first region hit by what the weather service dubbed the "Alberta Clipper" out of Canada.

"We're ready to wrap up winter already. That's enough of this stuff," said service station operator Don Vipond in Fargo, N.D., where at noon the temperature had warmed to 4 below zero.

Despite the warming trend, International Falls, Minn., had the nation's low for the morning at 34 degrees below zero. And a blizzard warning was posted for north-central North Dakota because of blowing snow. Jamestown, N.D., had a low of 24 below with a windchill of 83 below.

Chicago's Cook County Hospital reported six frostbite cases and one hypothermia case Sunday morning, Aaron Cunningham, the hospital's duty administrator, said.

The Center for Street People in Chicago provided refuge for about 100 persons Sunday, while more than 50 persons sat on couches and cots at the Levy Center, one of four shelters set up by the city's Department of Human Services.

Water froze on the faces and clothing of firefighters battling a fire in two downtown buildings in Omaha during the night, as temperatures plunged to 17 below zero. The fire caused an estimated $250,000 damage to businesses, but no injuries were reported.

Winds in Omaha reached 20 m.p.h., pushing the windchill index to 63 degrees below zero. "This would be a terrible fire under normal conditions," Fire Chief Horton Dahlquist said. "Under these conditions, it can be deadly."

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