1st day of winter wild, mild: Temperatures hit record highs in East, storms grip North
CONCORD, N.H. — The first day of winter brought a wild mix of weather across the country on Sunday: ice and high wind 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 along 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 left more than 400,000 people without electricity in eastern Canada. It could be days before the lights are back on everywhere.
At least six deaths were blamed on the storm, including five people killed in flooding in Kentucky and a woman who died in Arkansas as a result of a tornado with winds of 130 mph.
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 more than 11,000 delayed, according to aviation tracking website Flight Aware.com.
High-temperature records for the date fell for the second straight day in the mid-Atlantic states because of a mass of hot, muggy air from the South.
In New York's Central Park, the mercury reached 70, easily eclipsing the previous high of 63 from 1998. Records were 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 on 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 9 inches, Manitowoc, 7. Ice and snow in Oklahoma were blamed for three traffic deaths on slick roads.
In New York's St. Lawrence County, almost 2 inches of ice 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,” county dispatch operations supervisor Jim Chestnut said.
“This put a little bit of a damper onto that.”