Shelters for the homeless were overflowing today as the "Siberian Express" carried wintry weather from the Great Plains deep into Dixie. Freeze warnings stretched from Texas to Gulf Coast states, and low-temperature records were set in 46 communities by noon.
"You don't usually see this until January . . . until the worst part of the winter," Scott Tansey said today from the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Temperatures dropped to zero or below in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa. In Chadron, Neb., it was 15 below and falling early today. The National Weather Service reported 46 low-temperature records this morning, including 12 below zero at International Falls, Minn., which beat the old record, set in 1959, by 3 degrees.
Freeze warnings for tonight were posted as far south as northern Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Temperatures in the teens were expected tonight in metropolitan New York.
At least 20 deaths have been blamed on the weather since the season's first major snowstorm hit the northern Plains last week.
In Kentucky, Churchill Downs canceled today's race program because temperatures were not expected to top the mid-20s. President Tom Meeker said the track was frozen, making racing dangerous for horses and riders.
"I doubt it comes all the way from Siberia, but you could say the 'Siberian Express' has arrived," National Weather Service meteorologist Al Moeller said Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Tex.
11 Below Zero
The temperature in Casper, Wyo., dropped to minus 11 this morning, one degree below the 1959 record. Chicago's 6-degree reading was the lowest ever this early in the season, as were readings of 10 degrees in Indianapolis, 2 degrees in Concordia, Kan., and 16 in Jonesboro, Ark.
Milwaukee's 8 degrees broke a 75-year-old record, also by 1 degree. Other record lows included Nashville, Tenn., 18 degrees; Grand Rapids, Mich., 13, and Kansas City, Mo., 3.
In San Antonio, where the temperature dropped to 35, volunteers formed "blanket brigades" Wednesday night to makes deliveries to transients, said Jill Dwyer, executive director of the Hope for the Homeless shelter.
In Tennessee, nearly 600 people jammed Nashville's 480-bed Union Rescue Mission late Wednesday.