Nightly News   |  December 22, 2013

Extreme weather causes odd mix around the nation

A powerful storm system spawned rare December tornadoes in the South, dropped crippling ice and snow in the Midwest and brought unseasonably warm temperatures from the mid-Atlantic to New York City. Meteorologist Mike Seidel reports.

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>>> causing an odd mix of misery and delight depending on where you are in the eastern half of the country. that powerful storm system we've been watching for days now has spawned floods and rare december tornadoes in the south and spread crippling ice and snow from the midwest into new england leaving hundreds of thousands without power and snarling air travel . all just three days before christmas. elsewhere in places like philadelphia and new york city , holiday shoppers hit the streets in shirt sleeves on this second day of winter as record breaking temperatures soared into the 60s and even 70s. the weather channel 's mike seidel is in a colder and snowier wisconsin to start us off. hello.

>> reporter: hello, lester. from wisconsin, we have a snowstorm. a wild weekend, everything, snow and ice, tornados and floods and at least six deaths attributed to this extreme weather . an emergency declared in parts of new england and upstate new york . thick ice, freezing rain and high winds prompted the governor of new york to activate the state emergency center. more than 1,000 plows deployed to clear roads of up to two inches of ice. downed power lines knocked out electricity to more than 300,000 customers in michigan and tens of thousands more in new york, maine and vermont.

>> about 2:30 this morning, we awoke to the house shaking, transformers exploding, the skies lighting up, trees falling.

>> reporter: the storm stretches north to toronto. hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power. utility companies there describe the damage as catastrophic. the highest level emergency situation. back in new york city , a very different scene. visitors at rockefeller center shed heavy coats on this spring-like sunday.

>> fantastic. i'm in a t-shirt.

>> this is what people in florida must feel like.

>> reporter: in baltimore, christmas shopping in the sun. across the region, record high temperatures. new york city , a balmy 71. breaking its old record of 63 degrees. in philadelphia , 68 degrees. from 66 degrees, the previous record. augusta, georgia, 79 degrees. overnight the same storm produced powerful tornadoes and straight line winds. in arkansas, severe structural damage . in monroe, louisiana --

>> we saw the sides of the wall falling and then i saw the transformer over there blew up and flashed everywhere. the glass started shattering.

>> reporter: just south of louisville, kentucky, fallen power lines sparked a fire. nine cars ablaze forcing a highway to be shut down. in indiana, rain fell hard and fast flooding streets and homes.

>> a couple more inches and i think we would have been really in trouble.

>> reporter: almost 600 flights canceled today. 4500 delayed. most of those holiday travellers were flying through chicago and philadelphia . while snow in parts of the midwest guarantees a white christmas .

>> as far as i'm concerned, i've had enough.

>> reporter: the cold front is heading to the east coast tonight. that will cut off the record warmth. highs tomorrow drop 10 to 20 degrees but still near 60 in new york and washington. then christmas day , back to 30s and 40s. no snowstorms lurking on the weather map into the last weekend of the year.