How cold was it?

In Duluth, the high was 10 below zero. In Chicago, the temperature dropped to minus 26, smashing a record set 109 winters ago. In North Dakota, the wind chill factor hovered near the minus 100 mark.

It was, in fact, the coldest day of the century for much of the Midwest and parts of the East and South, as a frigid mass of Arctic air rolled down from Canada and settled over the midsection of the country.

At least 11 deaths were attributed to the weather in a deep-freeze weekend that also brought numerous reports of power outages, malfunctioning apartment heating systems and stranded motorists.

In Iowa and Indiana, high winds whipped snow into drifts, preventing plows from keeping the roads passable. Hundreds of motorists abandoned their cars, some taking refuge in nearby farms. "People will just not believe conditions are as bad as they are," said Mark Campbell, spokesman for the state patrol in Iowa. "They've taken their lives in their own hands if they drive."

Roads were also strewn with abandoned cars in Ohio, where up to a foot of new snow fell yesterday, and in Oregon, where fog and freezing temperatures caused treacherous conditions.

There were problems of a different sort in Jersey City, N.J., where 4 million gallons of water from a broken main turned the city's downtown into a giant skating rink. "It's like the Keystone Kops out there," said Charles Catrillo, director of the city water department, who helped supervise the cleanup. "Everybody's falling down."

The South was not spared the frigid blast. In the Piedmont mountains outside of Boone, N.C., the temperature fell to 19 below and winds gusted up to 70 miles per hour.

Nashville recorded a minus 2 temperature reading, and the wind chill was 15 below in Dallas and 25 below in Atlanta.

The National Weather Service said the Arctic blast was expected to push deep into Florida last night, and it issued a hard freeze forecast for two-thirds of the state, including the citrus belt.

Chicago was the hardest hit major city. The power company, Commonwealth Edison, said up to 50,000 area residents were left without electricity as wire became brittle and snapped in the extreme cold and high winds. The Chicago Building Department said yesterday it was getting 100 calls an hour from apartment dwellers complaining of no heat.

Chicago firefighters braved the cold to fight a seven-alarm fire that destroyed a factory-warehouse and a car dealership. After four hours, the firefighters and their equipment looked as if they were cast in stone--they were covered in ice.

Blood banks were reporting shortages in many areas as donors stayed home because of the weather.

But not everyone chose to stay home. James Bourassa, of Egypt, Ark., his wife and three three children, ages 9, 6 and 5, shivered inside their broken-down car outside of Effingham, Ill., for two hours at 11 below zero before a truck driver saw their blinking headlights and stopped. "We were huddled together and kept thinking somebody will stop, they have to," Bourassa said later.

A blizzard forced a bus carrying 22 passengers off the Indiana Toll Raod shortly before it was closed to traffic. The passengers, joined by 21 other stranded motorists picked up by the driver along the way, spent Saturday night and yesterday morning in a state police barracks near South Bend.

Dozens of long-standing low temperature records were broken yesterday as the thermometer plunged well below zero in the upper half of the Mississippi Valley, the upper Great Lakes and the lower Ohio Valley.

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., was the coldest spot in the nation, with a temperature reading of minus 36.