Winter arrived Friday on a sled of arctic air that slipped down across the western two-thirds of the nation, from frosty Seattle to snowy California to the deep-frozen Texas panhandle.
The cold turned gasoline to jelly in Wyoming, where temperatures plunged to 50 degrees below zero. It snapped power transmission lines and gave California citrus growers the shivers.Low temperature records were tied or broken in many places, including Denver, which matched a record at 21 below zero; Casper, Wyo., where it was 41 below; and coastal Eureka, Calif., where it was 27 above. In Medford, Ore., the rec-ord of 4 below zero was 15 degrees below the old mark for the date.
It was 2 below in Amarillo, Texas, and 6 above in Lubbock.
Pocatello officials said 40-50 families were evacuated from the edges of the Portneuf River Friday afternoon, after overnight temperatures down to minus 17 created ice jams and caused the river to go up more than 4 feet in a two-hour period.
Glen Blackwell, a chief with the Pocatello Fire Department, said some families were taken to Pocatello High School for temporary shelter. A motel offered help, as did a nursing home and Idaho State University, with an empty campus because of the holidays.
Officials said they were trying to round up volunteers to fill 150,000 sandbags.
"Pretty near froze to death out there this morning," said Bob Wallis, who works at the Blue Diamond Ranch in Eureka, Nev., where Friday's low plunged to minus 12 degrees. Even after 40 years of range roaming, "you never get used to that," Wallis said.
Plumbers reported a brisk business.
"We're all booked up," said a dispatcher at ABC Plumbing. "The phones started ringing at 4 a.m., and we're still getting them."
The storm system has been blamed for at least 13 deaths since Tuesday, in Washington, Iowa, Oregon, California and Oklahoma.
The cold moved south briskly. In Page, Okla., a small town in the Ouachita National Forest, temperatures dropped from 53 to 29 in a span of 30 minutes Friday.