The bitter cold that gripped the nation through Christmas began to ease in some regions Wednesday as clear skies gave way to clouds in the South and Northwest, while residents of the Midwest and Plains still felt the chill.

Rain fell on Washington and Oregon as Portland went above the freezing mark for the first time in a week, but snow fell on the Cascade and Olympic mountains in Washington and another cold blast was on the way for the region.Residents of the northern Plains and Midwest woke up to another bitterly cold day, with record lows in Minnesota and North Dakota, snow reported in Michigan and wind chills as low as 30 below zero across the region.

It took just 15 minutes Wednesday for International Falls, Minn., to tie a record of minus 29 degrees, while in Duluth, a minus 22 degree reading broke a record and the minus 31 degree reading in Williston, N.D., broke a 54-year-old record by 1 degree.

Wind moving at 10 to 15 mph pushed wind chills to minus 30 degrees in Michigan, where up to 4 inches of blowing snow fell across the state.

Authorities in Chicago and New York City responded to the cold weather by searching for homeless people spending the night on the street and bringing them inside to city shelters.

Ironically, Kodiak Island, off the southern coast of Alaska, recorded the warmest Christmas on record when temperatures soared to 47 degrees.

Clear, cold weather stretched from the Middle Atlantic states into New England with temperatures in the 30s along the coast and in the teens inland, where snow flurries were reported.

Florida, stung by a severe Christmas freeze last year, boasted the balmiest temperatures Tuesday - 83 degrees in Naples and 75 degrees in Miami.

The freeze danger was over in Southern California, but temperatures remained cool, with lows in Los Angeles in the upper 30s under mostly clear skies and light winds.

The state was recovering from a freeze that may have damaged up to 50 percent of the state's citrus crop, according to preliminarly estimates by Sunkist Growers, Inc.