Across the U.S., heavy snow, tornadoes -- and record highs

With parts of the nation buried beneath several inches of snow and ice, holiday travel got off to a rough start as scores of flights were delayed or canceled, yet several East Coast cities enjoyed record highs on the first full day of winter. 

New York reached 71 degrees Sunday, breaking the old high of 63 set in 1949 and 1998, according to the National Weather Service. Shorts and short-sleeved shirts could be spotted in Central Park, which just a few days ago was covered in snow.

Philadelphia, Atlantic City, N.J., and Trenton, N.J., also broke temperature records, with highs in the low 70s and high 60s, National Weather Service observing program leader Jim Bunker told the Los Angeles Times.

But the National Weather Service said the East Coast was due for a "reality check" by Tuesday, with colder weather arriving in time for Christmas.

In the South, emergency officials were still picking up the pieces from violent weekend weather that left two people dead and several more injured in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

One person was reported killed in eastern Arkansas on Saturday as suspected tornadoes destroyed at least two homes, damaged several more and flipped over trucks on highways along the border with Mississippi, according to weather service alerts.

Farther north, a powerful winter storm swept through the Midwest, with parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin each reporting up to 8 inches of snow over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Drivers in upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine grappled with icy roads, and 95,000 customers were without power as of Sunday morning, the Associated Press reported.

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 100 flight departures were reported canceled and hundreds more delayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as millions of Americans began a week of heavy holiday travel.

According to travel service AAA, an all-time high of 94.5 million Americans were expected to travel more than 50 miles from home between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1. Ninety-one percent of travelers were expected to travel by car.

The National Weather Service said it expected a "significant ice storm" for northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and central Maine through Monday.

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