A band of severe weather that left at least three people dead in tornadoes and heavy storms in the southeastern United States pushed up the East Coast on Sunday, bringing record high temperatures to Philadelphia and New York City and 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.
About 500 flights were canceled Saturday in hub airports in Chicago, Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth, according to aviation tracking site FlightStats.com
The unusual storm system brought a brief winter heatwave to northeastern cities, with Philadelphia and New York City logging record high temperatures on Saturday. The temperature in New York's Central Park topped out at 65 degrees, breaking a 2011 record of 62 degrees, the NWS said, while temperatures in Philadelphia reached 67 degrees.
In Washington D.C., the temperature was hovering "about 40 degrees warmer than normal," Sullivan added.
Sunday was expected to be even warmer across the region, he said.
Farther north, New York state, 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.
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 NWS 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 in New York, Tim Ghianni in Nashville, and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; editing by G Crosse)