Southwestern farmers struggled to save their citrus crops Tuesday and Idaho ranchers searched for livestock smothered in seemingly bottomless snow drifts as a deadly arctic air mass shattered more weather records across the nation.
Ice covered vast parts of the Southeast and Texas, causing power outages, filling hotels and causing hundreds of auto accidents on glassy roads. New Orleans went ahead with its soggy Mardi Gras, but other Louisiana towns decided that this Fat Tuesday would be spent indoors.At least 61 deaths have been blamed on the weather since Jan. 31, when frigid air broke out of Alaska.
Among the latest was a 59-year-old Chicago man found frozen to death Monday outside a metal shop where he often sold aluminum cans, police said. In Washington state, divers found the body of a 53-year-old orchard worker whose car broke through the ice in Osoyoos Lake.
With the cold front stopped in its tracks, no immediate relief is expected. The cold continued to plague virtually the entire nation, but especially the western third.
In Idaho, Gov. Cecil Andrus declared a state of emergency Monday in rural Clark County, and the National Guard was helping ranchers search drifts as deep as 15 feet for buried cattle and sheep.
County Commissioner Ab Laird said he lost more than 600 sheep, 700 cows and dozens of heifers and bulls on his property near Dubois in eastern Idaho.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is working to save nearly 500 trumpeter swans that have been unable to feed on a frozen fork of the Snake River. At least 20 of the swans have died so far. The flock represents a quarter of the species' population in North America.
In California, Texas and Arizona, citrus farmers fretted as temperatures dropped below freezing in usually temperate growing areas.
"If the weather forecast is correct, we're looking at a high probability of serious damage," said Ray Prewett, executive director of Texas Citrus Mutual, a growers' organization.
Growers brought out smudge pots and turned on giant fans to keep crop-damaging frost from settling. In California's San Joaquin Valley, one grower reported temperatures dipping to 19 degrees Monday.
Chicago's minus 4 marked the first subzero readings of the year there, and helped fill homeless shelters.
In New Mexico, a snowstorm dumped so much snow at Taos Ski Valley that it couldn't be measured. The resort's gauge only goes to 110 inches - just over 9 feet - and it was lost somewhere under the snow.