At 3:30 a.m. yesterday, paramedic Penny Lewis's ambulance tires froze to the icy driveway of a Dickinson, N.D., nursing home in unforgiving temperatures that had dropped to 28 degrees below zero, a 44-year record without the wind chill index applied.

"It's extremely cold," said Lewis. "It's hard on us, on the crew."

Freezing cold, dense fog or rain splashed across the nation yesterday, stranding travelers, disabling power supplies and continuing to threaten California's citrus crop.

While the eastern United States was treated to increasing temperatures, albeit in a blanket of soupy fog and drizzle, another Arctic cold wave poured south through the central states, forcing the mercury to below zero as far south as northern Kansas, according to Ken Reeves, a senior Accu-Weather meteorologist.

Parts of the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming hit 20 degrees below, and record low readings were set in Dickinson and Rapid City, S.D., as well as in Casper, Wyo., and Olympia, Wash.

Warmer air, meanwhile, surged north through the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, and temperatures climbed into the 60s in Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York, Reeves reported.

Fog was the weather's main ingredient along the East Coast. It scaled back visibility to several hundred feet in many places as far south as eastern Georgia.

Visibility was recorded in the morning at one-sixteenth of a mile at Dulles International Airport, the National Weather Service said.

At National Airport, which suffered a power outage, visibility was only one-half mile in the morning.

One day after a 16-inch snowfall, Pennsylvania residents were dealing with the densest fog in the region. "The whole state's pretty much blanketed in fog," said Doug Young, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Temperatures today in the coldest regions of the country are expected to climb as high as 20 degrees, said Reeves.

Mild air along the East Coast will displace colder air with temperatures to inch up to the 50-degree range as far north as central New England.

Temperatures are rising slightly in California as the cold air there moves south. Yesterday the mercury dropped into the 20s in the inland areas but is expected to climb into the 50s today.

California citrus growers have lost an estimated $288 million worth of navel oranges to the freeze. Some San Joaquin Valley counties have asked federal and state officials for disaster re- lief.

"How much can {the trees} take? Night after night, and then they get hit again," lamented Tom McNair, a statistician with the California Food and Agriculture Department.

The weather played its usual mean tricks on electrical power supplies, real estate and motor- ists.

In Montana, scores of travelers flocked to a Red Cross shelter in Kalispell after abandoning their cars along snowbound highways.

Late Friday night in Iowa, more than 70 cars and trucks slid into ditches or each other on the slippery Interstate 35 north of Des Moines. No serious injuries were reported, according to the Associated Press.

"All I know is it's really bad," said Lori Pruismann, a cashier at Touchdown truck stop near Webster City, Iowa. "Most truckers are staying right where they're at."

In Oklahoma, the storm turned deadly. Icy roads were blamed for the deaths yesterday of four people in three separate car crashes, AP reported. More than 90 deaths have been blamed on the weather since the cold wave began Dec. 18.

In Arkansas, an ice storm sent trees crashing into power lines, knocking out electricity to about 70,000 homes Friday, and anticipated showers prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood watch for the southeastern two-thirds of the state.

A flood warning also went out for northwest, north-central and west-central Indiana.

Another 52,000 western Washington state residents were without electricity yesterday; three shelters provided warm relief for 300 residents.

The storm there battered beaches and inland areas. Ten waterfront homes on Puget Sound have been destroyed or damaged by storm waves, and three dozen more were threatened by water after bulkheads were washed out.

Power crews in Ortonville, Minn., also worked in below-zero temperatures to restore electrical power, which went out about 9:30 p.m. Friday. The entire western Minnesota town of 2,600 was affected as the wind chill index dropped to about 50 below zero.

Despite the trouble some people seemed to be having with the weather, 82-year-old Rochus Leier, a retired farmer who is one of the 300 inhabitants of Esmond, N.D., remained unimpressed.

"It's cold, but it's kind of half-way pleasant," Leier said in a telephone interview from the Esmond Fire Hall Community Center, where a temperature of 31 degrees below zero yesterday morning did not keep 35 people from showing up for breakfast. "We're just used to it."