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Winter Cuts Power To Northeast

A deep freeze stretched from Arkansas to New York as workers tried to restore power to 200,000 homes and businesses left dark by fierce winds that were also blamed in four deaths.

The storm carried a wave of bitterly cold air as it swept out of the Midwest, prompting temperatures in western New York to plunge from 60 degrees to below freezing within hours.

Winds of 10 to 15 miles per hour Sunday made the temperature feel like it was below zero, said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve McLaughlin.

Parts of Arkansas had 5.5 inches of snow Saturday and freezing temperatures extended across the state. Hayward, Wis., had a Saturday morning low of 26 below zero, and daytime highs in the Upper Midwest reached only the single digits.

On Friday, wind of more than 60 mph buffeted the Rochester area and a 77-mph gust was recorded at the city's airport, the weather service said.

The frigid temperatures forced officials in Madison, Wis., which had a high 3 degrees on Saturday, to cancel the "Polar Plunge" into a lake, a fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

"We first really realized it was a problem when we cut the hole this morning and it immediately skimmed over with ice," Cheryl Balazs of the Special Olympics told WKOW-TV.

Utility officials in New York said crews would work through the weekend to restore power to about 85,000 customers, down from at least 328,000 customers who were blacked out Friday.

Thousands of customers were also without power in Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, where the National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 143 mph on Stratton Mountain.

Several states opened shelters, providing havens with light and heat for those without power.

"Most people tough it out the first night and then come in the second night," said Mark Bosma, spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.

The wind toppled many trees, including one in Billerica, Mass., that killed the driver of a pickup.

A falling tree crushed a car outside Rochester, killing a 52-year-old woman, and another killed a state worker in a truck at Saratoga Spa State Park. East of Rochester, a man was killed when his vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer rig whose driver had stopped to clear storm debris from his windshield.

Wind also knocked out a 12th-floor window in a high-rise office building in Syracuse, and falling debris barely missed passers-by, police said.