7 dead as unusual weather mix sweeps nation, threatens holiday travelers


Photo credit: KSTU, Salt Lake City, Utah

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(CNN) — At least seven people are dead after a bizarre mix of weather across the country spawned tornadoes, ice storms and record-setting warmth this weekend.

Four of the deaths involved two vehicle accidents in Kentucky. Three people drowned in the Rolling Fork River near New Hope when a car drove into the water. Two people escaped but were hospitalized with hypothermia, according to the Kentucky Emergency Management office.

In the other crash, a rider on an ATV overturned into a creek near Carrollton and was trapped underneath.

Authorities had yet to release the identities of the victims.

Several flood warnings remained in effect Sunday along some Kentucky rivers and streams.

Two deaths occurred in the Mississippi counties of Coahoma and Jasper, where severe weather damaged homes and knocked down trees, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The seventh fatality came from a traffic accident near Kansas City, said Chris Redline of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“We also had to close a lot of roads in southeast Missouri because of flooding,” Redline said.

Flooding, extreme cold and unseasonable warmth covered other parts of the country. To make sense of it all, let us take you on a North American tour.

RELATED: Severe and strange weather sweeps nation, threatens holiday travelers

Southeast: Thunderstorms, tornadoes and torrential downpours

Heavy rain, damaging winds and lightning continued Sunday. These storms are forecast to spread, bringing downpours to Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and up the East Coast on Sunday.

On Saturday night, the National Weather Service said a tornado was likely to blame for damage in central Mississippi, including four semi trucks overturned and five houses heavily damaged.

Some of the highest rain totals for Saturday occurred in Junction, Illinois, where 6 inches were reported, and Trumann, Arkansas, where residents had 7 inches of rain by late Saturday evening.

The main trigger for the severe weather is the above-average temperatures farther north.

Midwest: A flood of wet worry

On Saturday evening, some low-lying areas of Shelby County, Indiana, were evacuated as the rain continued to fall in central Indiana.

Where temperatures are lower, snow will come down across Iowa, Wisconsin and into northwest Michigan. Some areas will see up to 8-10 inches of snow, others around 4-7 inches. And an ice storm is predicted in southeast Michigan.

Central Plains: Slammed with ice and snow

In Kansas and southeast Nebraska, snowfalls will total 3-6 inches. And those cold temps will keep folks shivering.

Whitney Eichinger of Southwest Airlines said the company is trying to offer customers options.

“We are allowing customers to rebook their trip with no penalty through (Sunday),” she said. “That has more to do with traveling to the airport, not flight cancellations.”

The highest snow total of Saturday was in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, where 12.5 inches had fallen by late Saturday evening.

Mid-Atlantic/Northeast: Weirdly warm

If there is one present being handed out on as winter begins, it is the well-above-average temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic.

By Sunday, that warm weather will grace the Northeast, sending temperatures into the 60s.

Farther north, however, the situation has been less cozy. In Maine and across New Hampshire, Vermont and into New York, winter weather — including ice storm warnings and freezing rain — were in effect.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a winter ice emergency and activated the state’s emergency operations center.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo said up to an inch of ice accumulation is expected, and areas near the St. Lawrence and Black Rivers could see even more.

Canada: Unusually cold

Toronto is experiencing major ice storms and several thousand customers were without power. Toronto Police Sgt. Jeff Zammit said freezing rain and fallen trees have brought down many powerlines and police believe more people will lose power Sunday. Zammit said it has been colder than normal during December.

“It truly is a catastrophic ice storm that we’ve had here, probably one of the worst we’ve ever had,” Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines told CTV Network. “We’ve got lines down everywhere.”

By Jessica Ravitz and Leslie Holland
CNN’s Jennifer Gray, Morgan Winsor, Nick Valencia, Todd Borek and Matt Daniel contributed to this report.

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