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Minn. town hits 54 below as arctic air settles over US

NEW YORK -- Temperatures plummeted across much of the nation yesterday, approaching an all-time record in northern Minnesota and freezing the Gulf Coast as a river of Arctic air pushed southward.

Thermometers registered a low of 54 degrees below zero in Embarrass, Minn.

"You keep living, but it gets old after a while," said Christine Mackai, the town clerk for the community of 691 people in the northeast part of the state.

Minnesota's record is minus 60, set on Feb. 2, 1996, in Tower, about 10 miles north of Embarrass.

An autopsy was planned yesterday to determine whether the frigid weather contributed to the death of a 49-year-old disabled woman found Sunday morning, at least eight hours after her motorized scooter tipped over in St. Paul

The cold at Embarrass didn't stop customers from getting their morning coffee at Four Corners, a caf and gas station.

"Everybody left their cars running," waitress Trish Roggenbuck said. "It was pretty much breathtaking when you walked outside."

While below-zero readings stayed in the upper Midwest, thermometers dropped below the freezing mark all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The morning low was 28, with wind chills in the upper teens, in Mobile, Ala., Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., and Pensacola, Fla. A hard freeze warning was in effect overnight for parts of Mississippi, the National Weather Service said.

Mackai said Embarrass had been prepared for bitter cold since Thursday. "It only got down to 28 below," she said.

Elsewhere in Minnesota yesterday, Babbitt chilled to 51 below, and International Falls, which calls itself the Nation's Icebox, dropped to 44 below, the Weather Service said. Farther south, Minneapolis-St. Paul bottomed out at 11 below.

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