Northerners bundled up yesterday for a frigid but white Christmas as arctic air swept the eastern half of the nation and temperatures plummeted to record lows in dozens of cities.

One of the coldest spots was Old Forge, N.Y., in the Adirondacks, where the morning low was 36 degrees below zero.

At Albany, N.Y., the Christmas temperature read 20 degrees below zero at 9 a.m., but gusty winds produced a wind-chill equivalent of 67 degrees below zero.

At nearby Syracuse, where the temperature plummeted to 22 below, about 4,000 people were without power for six hours after a failure of switching equipment.

Power also was out temporarily for about 2,400 people in the Connecticut towns of Bethany, Southington and New Canaan.

New York City was warmer, at 1 degree below zero at 8 a.m., but that still shattered a 108-year record for Christmas day. The previous record there for the date was 4 degrees above zero, according to the National Weather Service.

Detroit also nipped a record of 7 below set in 1872 with a 7 a.m. temperature of 8 below zero. And the 8 below at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport broke a record 6 below set in 1924.

Temperatures fell to 7 below in Boston at 9 a.m. -- the coldest Christmas since 1957, when it also was minus 7.

In Denver, the National Weather Service issued high wind and avalanche warnings for the mountains and back-country, where as much as 16 inches of snow fell earlier in the week.

There was a new record of a different sort in Phoenix, Ariz., where the temperature hit 77, a record for Christmas day. Seattle had a record 58 degrees and the mercury hit 61 in Olympia, breaking a record of 54 set in 1947.

Few regions besides the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley saw Christmas-morning snow, but much of the nation got at least a dusting from snow that fell the day before. St. Louis had its first white Christmas since 1967.