Temperatures plummeted across the eastern half of the nation Monday, approaching an all-time record in northern Minnesota and freezing the Gulf Coast (search) as a river of Arctic air pushed southward.
Thermometers registered a low of 54 degrees below zero at Embarrass, Minn. (search).
"You keep living, but it gets old after a while," said Christine Mackai, the town clerk for the community of about 1,400 people in northeast Minnesota.
Minnesota's record is 60 below, set on Feb. 2, 1996, in Tower, about 10 miles north of Embarrass.
The cold at Embarrass didn't stop the regular customers from getting their morning coffee at Four Corners, a cafe 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 coast.
The morning low was 28, with wind chills in the upper teens, at Mobile, Ala., Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., and Pensacola, Fla. A hard freeze warning (search) was in effect overnight into Tuesday morning for parts of Mississippi, the weather service said.
Mackai said Embarrass had been prepared for bitter cold as early as last Thursday. "It only got down to 28 below, and that's nothing. That's no big deal," she said.
Elsewhere in northern Minnesota on Monday, Babbitt chilled to 51 below, and International Falls — which calls itself the Nation's Icebox — dropped to 44 below, the national Weather Service said. Farther south, Minneapolis-St. Paul bottomed out at a mere 11 below.
The arctic blast followed several days of subzero temperatures. Weather service meteorologist Greg Frosig in Duluth said Monday's high would still be below zero in northern Minnesota.