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Late-Winter Storm Hits Central US - 2002-03-04

A late-winter storm, followed by bitterly cold temperatures, swept across the central part of the United States during the last few days. The storm affected an area stretching from the state of Texas north to Michigan, and is blamed for at least 23 deaths. Forecasters say some relief is on the way.

With the first day of Spring just a little more than two weeks away, many people in Chicago have had their minds on things like gardening, or baseball. Those will have to wait awhile, after the city woke up Monday morning to a temperature of minus 21 Celsius, the coldest temperature this season.

Community centers stayed open late Sunday, to give homeless people or those who had lost heat at their homes a warm place to stay for the night.

Department of Human Services worker Heron O'Neal was among the hundreds of city workers making sure no one was left on the street overnight. He said his job is both rewarding and frustrating. "The number of people we see, and the people who do not want you to give them a hand - they would rather stay in the police station, or the hospital, because it is warm there, and they do not want to be placed somewhere else," he said.

The cold temperatures followed a storm that left 25 centimeters of snow on the Chicago area by Saturday night. That weather system blew out of the Rocky Mountains Friday, and across the central United States. In the state of Texas, snow, sleet and freezing rain left many roads covered with ice. More than 500 car accidents in Texas were blamed on the storm. By midday Monday, 23 storm-related deaths had been recorded in five states.

Several temperature records were set Monday, including a reading of minus 19 in Springfield, Missouri, and minus 8 along the U.S. - Mexico border at Del Rio, Texas.

Forecasters say the cold spell will be short-lived. Monday's midday temperatures were already above zero in parts of South Dakota. The temperature in Chicago is expected to reach 12 above by Friday, which should easily melt away the evidence of this late-winter storm.