DENVER — Bitterly cold air poured southward across the nation's midsection Wednesday, dropping temperatures to record lows from Montana to Illinois.
The mercury dived to a record 45 below at West Yellowstone, Mont., the frequently cold spot at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the National Weather Service said.
The old record for Dec. 7 was 39 below, set in 1927.
The cold even extended south to the Texas Panhandle, where Lubbock shivered at a record low 6 above zero, the weather service said.
The body of a homeless man was found huddled next to a fence in Denver, where the temperature hit 11 below Wednesday, and authorities were trying to determine if he froze to death.
He apparently had shed his jacket in a phenomenon called "paradoxical undressing," where victims of hypothermia become disoriented and hallucinate, deputy coroner Amy Martin said.
The Denver Rescue Mission opened all available space for the homeless.
The coldest spot in Colorado early Wednesday was Hohnholz Ranch, 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins, which bottomed out at 37 below zero, the weather service said.
Layering clothes to keep warm
In Gunnison, Alec Solimeo tended bar at the Timbers Sports Bar & Grill wearing a couple layers of clothing Tuesday as a faulty heater let the inside temperature drop to 42 degrees.
The outside temperature fell to 12 below early Wednesday, the weather service said.
"I'm keeping these travelers happy," Solimeo said, adding that his regular customers apparently stayed home. "They're playing pool, drinking some Irish coffee and doing some singing."
Temperatures read like baseball scores in northeastern New Mexico — zero at Las Vegas and 1 at Raton.
"I'm sitting here in my office and it's freezing and we've got the heat on full blast," said Bill Cox, owner of the Hillcrest Restaurant in Las Vegas.
The cold follows a blizzard that blasted much of the Plains on Nov. 27-28, shutting down hundreds of miles of major highways across a half-dozen states and piling up snowdrifts 8 feet high in South Dakota.
Just two of the 157 South Dakota towns that had power problems after that storm snapped power lines were still without electricity Wednesday, but more than 3,600 rural customers were still blacked out, said Tom Dravland, state public safety secretary.
Lows across the eastern part of the state dipped to as much as 20 below.
A winter storm warning was issued Wednesday in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the temperature fell from the low 40s before sunrise to the upper 20s by the end of the morning rush hour.
Freezing rain and sleet fell Wednesday and up to 2 inches of snow was predicted by Thursday morning.
Elsewhere Wednesday, the weather service said record lows for the date included 28 below zero at Drummond, Mont., where the date's previous record was 21 below in 1971; 26 below at Seeley Lake, Mont.; 25 below at Laramie, Wyo., tying a 1978 reading; 17 below at Alliance, Neb.; 19 below at Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and 3 below at Lincoln, Ill.
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