Wind-chill readings plunged to dangerous levels more than 50 degrees below zero in the Plains and Great Lakes today, and temperatures in the 20s threatened citrus crops in California's San Joaquin Valley.
Cold, snow and fog nationwide have been blamed for 25 deaths since Sunday.
In the Plains, the National Weather Service in Iowa said wind chills had reached the "danger category," with readings below zero over all but the southeastern part of the state. A wind chill of 49 below stung Mason City.
Wind chills of 50 degrees below zero on Thursday spread from the northern Plains to the upper Mississippi Valley. Duluth, Minn., received a repeat performance today with a temperature of 13 below and a wind chill of 51 below.
Fur Coat a Must
"The bottom line is, anyone who lives in Minnesota needs a fur coat, antifreeze, a fireplace and front-wheel drive," said Shirley Skarda, a condominium owner in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park.
Temperatures were below zero from the upper Great Lakes to the northern Plains, where record lows were reported in at least four cities. In Valentine, Neb., the temperature was a bone-chilling 26 below zero, shattering the previous record 22 below set in 1917. A 15-below reading at North Platte, Neb., broke the previous record 14 below set in 1901.
"I think we're getting used to the cold, but the vehicles aren't," said Linda Hughes, a waitress at the Home Cafe in Valentine, where eight inches of snow covered the ground. "Even the people who have plug-ins on their cars, some of them won't start."
Ice Blamed for Deaths
Ice-slickened roads were blamed for two more deaths Thursday. In Illinois, a man was killed when his pickup truck was hit by a car that skidded into his lane on an icy bridge. A woman was killed in Oklahoma when her car skidded off an icy bridge and overturned.
In California's San Joaquin Valley, citrus growers used wind machines, running water and smudge pots to counter nighttime temperatures in the upper 20s.
"We're right on the edge," said Dave Carman, a fruit frost specialist with the National Weather Service. "As long as it doesn't get any colder than it has, everyone should be all right."
A storm that Thursday dumped six inches of snow on New Mexico and five inches on Texas pushed as far north as Missouri today. Up to five inches of snow was expected in Oklahoma, and freezing rain to the south kept roads slick.