Brrrr! Bitter freeze follows snowstorm in central U.S.

KANSAS CITY, Missouri Wed Feb 2, 2011 11:24am EST

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - The snow has stopped falling and the high winds have slowed, but a deep freeze trailing the harsh winter storm was keeping residents of the central United States mostly huddled at home on Wednesday.

Bright sun shone down on snow plow crews as they cleared streets of a foot or more of snow, and neighborhoods buzzed with snow blowers as residents worked to unbury driveways and sidewalks.

But schools remained closed and officials warned subzero temperatures posed a serious threat to humans and animals who dare to venture outside.

"People still need to be careful out there," said National Weather Service spokesman Pat Slattery. "It is going to be cold."

In the Kansas City area, air temperatures in the single-digits and below were translating to wind chill temperatures of 5 below to 15 below zero degrees.

Conditions were much harsher to the north. In North Dakota, wind chills were ranging Wednesday from 35 below to 55 below zero, and in Minnesota wind chill temperatures were ranging from 25 below to 35 below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

"That is to the point where in less than half an hour you're going to have frost bite if you aren't protected," said Slattery.

In Chadron, Nebraska, meteorologists recorded a low of 27 below zero overnight. Other locations in western Nebraska saw temperatures ranging from minus 18 to minus 24 degrees Fahrenheit.

The extreme temperatures were overwhelming services for the poor and homeless in many areas.

"When you combine snow with wicked cold it brings even the toughest people in," said Dennis Chapman, associate executive director of the City Union Mission in Kansas City, which sheltered nearly 400 people Tuesday night.

He said they expect even more Wednesday night and will be putting mattresses on the floor to accommodate the crowd.

The blizzard was centered Wednesday in Illinois and the Great Lakes area and was moving toward the northeast.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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