A breath of early spring died today as winter roared back into the country's midsection with snow, freezing rain and below-zero windchill readings after six consecutive days of record high temperatures.
Residents from the Plains to the East Coast, treated to a spring-like weekend of boating, picnics and outdoor pleasure of all kinds, draped themselves in winter regalia once again.
"I was barbecuing over the weekend and now I might be shoveling," said Bob Finn, 25, a Chicago roofer who stayed home from work because of freezing rain, cold and high winds. It was a record 74 degrees in Chicago on Sunday, but a bitter windchill of 6 below zero stung the Windy City this afternoon.
'Frozen Tundra Time'
"There was no way I was going to go in to work (Sunday) like I was supposed to do with the weather so warm. But I guess it's back to frozen tundra time," said attorney Elliot Staffin in Milwaukee, where a record high of 70 Sunday was only a fond memory less than 24 hours later with snow flurries and readings in the 30s.
Winds gusting to 40 m.p.h. in Jamestown, N.D., dropped windchill temperatures to 42 below zero, and strong winds around the Great Lakes kicked up six-foot waves that crashed over Chicago's lake-front barriers, flooding outer roadways.
Warnings for gale-force winds were posted over lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan. The strong winds made for bitter windchill readings up to 25 degrees below zero across parts of upper Michigan and northern lower Michigan.
Power Lines Down
The strong winds also were blamed for ripping down power lines in northern Illinois, briefly knocking out power to about 2,000 customers of Commonwealth Edison Co. in five of Chicago's northern suburbs.
Snow stretched from western Nebraska, across South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, western Kansas, northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan. Freezing rain chilled central Colorado, central Kansas and northeast Illinois.
After spring-like conditions that had shattered 137 record highs nationwide since Wednesday, the National Weather Service advised late Sunday night that "the party is over."
"I hadn't put my winter clothes away yet," said Russ Crawford of Ainsworth, Neb., where the windchill was 21 below zero this morning after a 77-degree reading on Saturday. "It's quite a change."