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Bitter cold hits northern U.S. as Erie, Pennsylvania, digs out from colossal snowfall

Arctic blast
Wide swaths of U.S. brace for frigid temps 03:20

ERIE, Pa. -- Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday and will stay put for days to come, as the snow-hardened city of Erie, Pennsylvania, digs out from a record snowfall.

A storm brought 34 inches of snow on Christmas Day to Erie, an all-time daily snowfall record for the Great Lakes city, and 26.5 more inches on Tuesday. 

More than 62 inches have fallen on the city since Dec. 23, with several more inches falling Wednesday as residents dug out in frigid temperatures.

The Pennsylvania National Guard was called out in northwestern Pennsylvania, reports CBS affiliate WSEE-TV in Erie. Gov. Tom Wolf sent 21 National Guard troops driving Humvees and other high-clearance vehicles to help with emergency response and transport essential emergency services and hospital employees. 

Drone footage shows massive amount of snow in Penn. city 01:01

Forecasters warned of hypothermia and frostbite from arctic air settling in over the central U.S. and spreading east. 

Wind chill advisories or warnings were in effect for much of New England, northern Pennsylvania and New York. Those places and states in the northern Plains and Great Lakes were projected to see highs in the teens or single-digits, and lows below zero for the rest of the week and into the new year. 

The National Weather Service said wind chills in some areas Thursday could make temperatures feel below zero.

In Millcreek, outside Erie, it took Kathleen Palkovic and her 23-year-old son two hours to shovel out so Palkovic could make it to her waitressing job. The 5-mile drive to Dave's Diner in downtown Erie took an hour. The 62-year-old Palkovic and the cook opened the restaurant at a little after 6 a.m. in single digit temperatures. 

"We're dedicated people, I guess," Palkovic said. Something else helped: "It took 800 milligrams of ibuprofen after all that to get me to work." 

Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper said things were under control as well as could be expected, considering the heavy snowfall. 

"We're used to a lot of snow here in Erie, but this is unprecedented, the amount we got," Dahlkemper said. 

The timing was good, since people were off the streets and staying home for Christmas, giving plows more space to clear streets, Dahlkemper said. 

Emergency calls have been relatively slow and, with streets in relatively good condition, the big task now is digging out cars and driveways, Dahlkemper said.

While Erie is tented with snow from top to bottom, they aren't alone in dealing with the winter blast. CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan reports parts of Wisconsin dropped to -23 degrees. The main street bridge in Green Bay got stuck due to the freezing windchill and the coast guard deployed a ship to break the water of Green Bay.

Weather also was being blamed for a Kansas accident that killed four people after the pickup truck they were in fell off a bridge on Interstate 70 on Tuesday. 

In New York communities near Lake Ontario's eastern end, including Redfield and Boylston, road crews were trying to plow 5 feet of snow that has fallen since Christmas Day. Other towns in western New York east of Lake Erie also received heavy snow.

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