Bizarre holiday-week weather ending just in time for Christmas

The sprawling pre-holiday winter storm that scattered tornadoes, record warmth, deadly floods, and ice across the US is exiting, but Christmas will find many without power in nearby Ontario.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal/AP
An American Robin searches for food on a frozen tree in Augusta, Maine, Dec. 22. More than a quarter inch of ice coated tree branches and wires in central Maine, while other parts of the country experienced record heat, flooding, and even a tornado.

Unpredictable holiday weather is never a welcome guest, but this Christmas week is being ushered in with an unusually bizarre streak of extreme weather, ranging from record-breaking heat to ice storms, floods, tornadoes, and extreme cold.

The torrential rains that hit much of the South over the weekend caused flooding that claimed at least five lives in Kentucky and two in Mississippi. And one woman was killed by a tornado in Arkansas. Tornadoes also hit in Mississippi.

Meanwhile, residents in the New York area enjoyed record-breaking warmth in the 70s Sunday – but should be prepared for those temperatures to fall to near freezing by Monday night. Northern New England was bracing for more snow, ice, and cold on Monday, and the Southeast was bracing for yet more rain, and possible flood warnings.

Frigid temperatures are moving into the Midwest, and parts of Michigan, as well as Ontario, have been dealing with power outages from ice storms.

More than 200,000 Toronto residents still had no power Monday, and the local power company says most likely will not have it restored until after Christmas.

Toronto Hydro says its crews are working around the clock, and its CEO told CBC news that the city hasn’t had a storm this bad in recent memory.

While the warm temperatures in New York and Philadelphia may have been a surprising summer-feeling interlude for residents there, those temperatures are also a big reason behind the damaging storms and extreme weather spreading across the East, including the massive rains to the south.

"This storm is bringing a little bit of everything, from rain, flooding and wind, to ice and snow in some areas," National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Sullivan told Reuters. "What is really extraordinary about this system, though, is the warm air."

The high in New York City reached 71 degrees on Sunday – shattering the 1998 record of 63 degrees. Temperatures in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., were also much higher than normal, but farther north in New England, the combination of warm and cold air caused an ice storm.

But the most damaging storms were in the South, where weather-related car accidents claimed lives and caused injuries, and other deaths were caused by flooding in Kentucky and an overturned mobile home in Mississippi.

The wild weather has, predictably, snarled air traffic across the country during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

But, while the weather is likely to turn much colder across the East and Midwest in coming days, after Monday it may at least get drier.

Most of the snow and rain is supposed to end by Monday night. The National Weather Service predicts a “quiet weather pattern” to return by the middle of the week, but says “it will remain quite cold across the northern tier states.” 

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