Wild mix of weather on first full day of winter

December 22, 2013

The first full day of winter brought a wild mix of weather across the United States on Sunday: ice and high winds in the Great Lakes and New England areas, flooding in the South, snow in the Midwest, and record-shattering temperatures in the 60s and 70s in the Mid-Atlantic.

Snow and ice knocked out power to 440,000 homes and businesses in Michigan, Upstate New York and northern New England and also left more than 475,000 people without electricity in eastern Canada. It could be days before the lights are back on everywhere.

The icy weather was expected to make roads hazardous through at least Monday from the upper Midwest to northern New England during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

As of midafternoon, more than 700 airline flights had been canceled and about 11,000 delayed, according to the Web site Flight­Aware.com.

In Kentucky, five people were killed in flooding caused by the storm system. The bodies of three people were pulled from Rolling Fork River on Sunday after their vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, a fourth person drowned in Carroll County after a four-wheeler overturned in high water, and a body was discovered in Ballard County near a car abandoned in a flooded ditch.

In Arkansas, authorities said a woman was killed after a category EF2 tornado with winds of about 130 mph struck in St. Francis County on Saturday. A man found in a field was hospitalized in serious condition, while the woman’s 3-year-old granddaughter and ­25-year-old daughter were treated at a hospital.

Five people were killed in Canada in highway accidents related to the storm.

High-temperature records for the date fell for the second straight day in the Mid-Atlantic because of a mass of hot, muggy air from the South. In New York’s Central Park, the mercury reached 70 degrees, easily eclipsing the previous high of 63 from 1998. Records were also set in Wilmington, Del. (67), Atlantic City, N.J. (68), and Philadelphia (67). Washington tied its 1889 mark at 72.

Temperatures were expected to return to normal by Monday night and Tuesday, dropping back into the 30s.

The scene was much more seasonal Sunday in Vermont, where Lynne White of West Charleston listened to the cracking of falling tree branches and gazed at the coating of ice on her home. “It’s actually really pretty,” she said. “Not safe, I’m sure, but it’s pretty.”

Heavy snow in Wisconsin forced dozens of churches to cancel Sunday services. Milwaukee got about nine inches; Manitowoc, seven. Ice and snow in Oklahoma were blamed for three traffic deaths on slick roads.

In New York’s St. Lawrence County, almost two inches of ice had accumulated by early Sunday, coating tree limbs and power lines, and a state of emergency was declared to keep the roads clear of motorists.

“It’s a big party weekend . . . before Christmas,” said Jim Chestnut, county dispatch operations supervisor. “This put a little bit of a damper onto that.”

— Associated Press

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