Image: Cold weather
Ben Woloszyn  /  Laramie Boomerang via AP
Dick Claytor rides his bike through the snow while smoking a pipe in Laramie, Wyo. on Monday.
updated 12/15/2008 7:24:15 PM ET 2008-12-16T00:24:15

Bitter cold, with record-breaking subzero temperatures in some places, gripped much of the nation Monday, keeping people indoors and leading some cities to open shelters.

An exception was the Northeast, where unseasonably mild weather Monday melted ice on trees and soothed the nerves of those who have gone without power since an ice storm four days ago.

"Finally, everyone is walking around in the neighborhood. It is so nice," said JoAnn Trudeau, 62, of Hooksett, who hasn't had power since Friday morning.

Elsewhere, arctic air blew southward across the Midwest and West.

The cold and remnants of the weekend blizzard that accompanied it closed hundreds of schools from the northern Plains to the Great Lakes states.

'Scary, scary situation'
The St. Francis House shelter for the homeless in Sioux Falls, S.D., where Monday's low was minus 11, was a lifesaver, said Richard Byrd.

"I would be probably huddled up right now under a bunch of blankets because this was my only alternative. If it wasn't for the St. Francis house, I'd be in a scary, scary situation," he said.

Major highways in Minnesota, and North and South Dakota reopened after Sunday's blizzard dropped as much as 14 inches of snow, but hundreds of schools were closed in the three states.

Monday morning lows in North Dakota included minus 18 in Bismarck, with a wind chill factor of minus 42. The smaller communities of Bowbells and Berthold reported wind chill factors at around 50 below.

In Williston, N.D., Penny Groth acknowledged: "It's just darn cold right now." She said the Gramma Sharon's Family Restaurant she owns had been closed since Saturday night because of the snow and cold.

An about-face
Monday's cold was an abrupt change for many areas. Illinois had unseasonable warmth Sunday with temperatures in the 50s, but Monday morning lows were in the single digits across the northern part of the state. Rockford had a low of just 3, and 20 mph wind made it feel like minus 18, the National Weather Service said.

"Right now it looks like it's about 14 degrees," cashier Mike Kanise said Monday afternoon as he checked a weather station at Hannel's Amaco truck stop in Jacksonville, Ill. "Feels like it's minus 1."

Hundreds of Illinois schools were closed because of ice-covered roads. More schools were closed in Michigan, where northern areas had blizzard conditions as wind gusting to more than 50 mph caused whiteouts and generated wind chills as low as 30 below.

Thermometers read 31 below Monday in Glasgow, Mont., and the wind chill was 45 below, the Weather Service said. The Texas Panhandle had lows in the single digits, and Goodland, Kan., registered a record low of minus 10.

Record lows Monday included 19 below zero in Denver, where the previous Dec. 15 record of minus 6 was set in 1951; and minus 16 at Sidney, Neb.

Working around the clock
In the Northeast, hundreds of utility crews from as far away as South Carolina worked through the weekend to turn on the lights — and more important, power to furnaces and wells — to New Hampshire customers, leaving 168,000 still without electricity. At its peak, the number of power failures in the state was about 430,000.

Outside temperatures soared above 50 degrees, making it warmer outside than inside some dark apartments and houses.

In Portland, Maine, the city hit a record high for the day at 56 degrees Monday just four days after the storm knocked out power to 220,000 residents. Central Maine Power said about 30,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark Monday morning, and a spokesman said it expected to have power restored Wednesday.

The warming weather and wind created more problems in New York as tree limbs snapped back in place after ice melted off, said New York Gov. David Paterson.

Paterson and Sen. Charles Schumer said they were seeking a federal emergency declaration for 16 counties hit by the storm. About 77,000 customers in eastern New York still lacked power Monday, and utilities said it could be Wednesday before almost all customers get their power back.

A long wait for power
In Derry, N.H., Tom Guyette was one of three residents of his eight-unit apartment house still sticking it out. The disabled Marine veteran said they were using a propane heater and a gas grill outside to make coffee, boiled eggs and Spam.

"We're still manning the fort. We haven't been relieved of our duties, so we ain't leavin' yet," he said. "There's a lot more people that have a lot less than we do, so for us to take spaces where women and children could be is wrong."

The wait will be much longer for others, such as Meredith Lund, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire town of New Ipswich. She said the utility company estimated power would not be restored to the town for about two weeks.

So far, President George W. Bush has declared states of emergency in New Hampshire, Maine and nine of Massachusetts' 14 counties, directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief assistance.

In Vermont, Gov. Jim Douglas was declaring the state's four southern counties disaster areas. About 6,300 customers were still without power Monday morning, said the Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and Green Mountain Power. Officials there estimated it could be the middle of the week before all customers have their power back.

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