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Storm Grounds U.S. Flights, Whips Up Tornadoes, Toasts East

Brian K. Sullivan

(Bloomberg) -- A massive winter storm is grounding flights in Chicago, whipping up tornadoes and hail across the South, and will likely push record January warmth into New York, Washington and the entire East Coast over the weekend.

At least seven people have died, including three in Alabama, as the storm swept across the southern states, AP reported.

The eastern U.S. was covered with threats from high winds and flooding rains, while areas from Kentucky to Louisiana suffered with snow, ice and even tornadoes, the National Weather Service said. Across the U.S., winds and foul weather had resulted in some 1,994 canceled flights, the majority of those scrubbed trips into or out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. High winds were delaying inbound flights.

“Pick your threat; everything is going on,” said Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “You would think there would be a lot of impacts and there are.”

Read more: U.S. Had 14 Weather Disasters Costing $1 Billion or More in 2019

In 2019, two large hail storms in Colorado and Texas caused $2.6 billion in damage combined, and since 2008 the powerful systems cost on average $19 billion per year. A sharp gradient between cold temperatures in the West and record-warmth in the East has been making Saturday’s storms worse, Oravec said.

Chicago has had mostly rain through early Saturday, but it could pick up about 3 inches of snow later, Oravec said. The heaviest snow and coldest temperatures will be north and west of the city.

In the East, there’s a chance warm temperature records for the date will fall on Saturday and Sunday throughout Ohio Valley and into the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

In New York’s Central Park, Saturday’s high reached 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) which broke the record for Jan. 11 of 63 set in 1975, according to the weather service. Sunday’s high should reach 67, which would top a mark set in 2017. The warmest January temperature recorded in Manhattan was 72, touched in 1950 and 2007.

(Adds death toll numbers and updates flight cancellations)

--With assistance from Hailey Waller.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Virginia Van Natta

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