Three nights of freezing temperatures have destroyed up to three-quarters of California's $1bn citrus crop, as a storm continued to batter the US, bringing down power lines, making roads treacherous and leaving 41 dead.

"This is one of those freezes that, unfortunately, we'll all remember," said AG Kawamura, the California state food and agriculture secretary, adding that damage had been spread across the state in places usually immune to freezes.

The latest freeze is likely to surpass the damage done by a three-day cold snap in December 1998 that destroyed 85% of California's citrus crop, a loss valued then at $700m (ยฃ360m), he said.

Growers are also reporting damage to avocados, strawberries and blueberries.

Citrus growers have already lost up to 75% of their crops, said Philip LoBue, a farmer and chairman of California Citrus Mutual, a 2,000-member trade group. "When you're already cutting ice within the oranges, you know those are gone."

About 145,000 people in New York state and New Hampshire were left without power on Monday after an icy storm but the heaviest snowfalls were predicted for Maine.

Waves of freezing rain, sleet and snow since Friday have been blamed for at least 17 deaths in Oklahoma, eight in Missouri, eight in Iowa, four in New York, three in Texas and one in Maine. Seven of the Oklahoma deaths occurred when a minibus slid off an icy road.