By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) – A band of severe weather from tornadoes to icy blasts left at least seven people dead as winter storms and severe weather pushed up the East Coast on Sunday, bringing record high temperatures to Philadelphia and New York City but ice storms to parts of New England.
The eastern half of the country was getting a “plethora of winter weather” just days before the Christmas holiday, according to the National Weather Service.
“This storm is bringing a little bit of everything, from rain, flooding and wind, to ice and snow in some areas,” said NWS meteorologist Bruce Sullivan. “What is really extraordinary about this system, though, is the warm air.”
The system is expected to linger over the East Coast until Monday, snarling road and airline travel for millions of people during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Major airports in Philadelphia and New York City were experiencing delays Sunday because of wind and visibility, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hundreds of flights across the United States were canceled on Sunday, according to the aviation tracking site, FlightAware.com flight website.
The unusual storm system brought a brief winter heat wave to northeastern cities with Philadelphia and New York City logging record high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday.
The temperature in New York’s Central Park topped out at 71 degrees on Sunday, breaking a 1998 record of 63 degrees, the weather service said. The temperature had reached 65 degrees in Central Park on Saturday, breaking a 2011 record of 62 degrees. Temperatures in Philadelphia reached a record 68 degrees on Sunday.
In Washington D.C., the temperature was hovering “about 40 degrees warmer than normal,” Sullivan added.
Farther north, in upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine were pummeled by an ice storm after the warm air hit an arctic layer, he said.
Thousands of people across New England were without power on Sunday and motorists were urged to use caution after up to two inches of ice coated roads and power lines. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a winter ice storm emergency in four counties in the state’s north and west.
The powerful storm system tore through the southeast on Saturday, spawning at least one confirmed tornado and leaving at least three people dead.
Two adults died when the car they were driving in struck a fallen tree in the road in Jasper County, Mississippi, county coroner Randy Graham told Reuters.
Another man was killed in Coahoma County when his mobile home blew over in high winds, the NWS confirmed on Sunday.
In Nelson County, Kentucky, three drowning victims were pulled from a submerged vehicle, according to local emergency response officials. Elsewhere in the state, in Carroll County, an individual was believed to have drowned.
A tornado touched down in the city of Redfield, Arkansas, damaging several homes and downing tree limbs and power lines. Tornado sirens rang in Nashville Saturday evening and a car lot in Louisville, Kentucky, caught fire after nearby power lines were toppled.
Widespread damage from the storm system was also reported near Dermott, Arkansas, in the southeast corner of the state, where five homes were badly damaged, 15 suffered minor damage and four trucks were blown off a highway, said David Cox, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jackson, Mississippi. Two people were injured, he said.
“We are thinking it was a tornado,” Cox said. “We had quite a bit of rotation and quite a bit of damage.” The storm hit at about 5 p.m. local time, he said.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Edith Honan in New York, Tim Ghianni in Nashville, and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; editing by G Crosse)