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Winter's start brings heavy snow, ice to US, Canada

CONCORD, New Hampshire--The first full day of winter brought a wild mix of weather across the United States: ice and high wind in the upper Midwest and northeastern New England states, flooding in the South and record-shattering temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit (upper teens and low 20s Celsius) along the mid-Atlantic region.

Freezing rain across much of eastern Canada on Sunday turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks and wreaked havoc on holiday plans at one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Snow and ice knocked out power to 400,000 homes and businesses in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, and also left more than 475,000 customers without electricity in eastern Canada. It could be days before the lights are back on everywhere.

“Thoughts are with those without power due to the ice storm,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted. “Please stay safe.”

At least nine deaths were blamed on the storm in the U.S., including five people killed in flooding in Kentucky, three traffic deaths on slick roads in Oklahoma, and a woman who died after a tornado with winds of 130 mph (209 kph) struck in Arkansas. Five people were killed in eastern Canada in highway crashes blamed on severe weather conditions.

In Toronto, warming centers were set up and the city shut down streetcar service and parts of the subway system. The city's giant Yorkdale Shopping Centre lost power.

Mayor Rob Ford called it one of the worst storms in Toronto's history.

“My house is freezing cold, I have little kids, we might have to go to a hotel tonight, I'm not quite sure what we're going to do,” Ford said Sunday. “It's not good to wake up and have a freezing cold shower.”

Hydro Toronto said about 300,000 customers were without power on Sunday evening as ice-coated tree branches snapped and brought down power lines. The utility's vice-president Blair Peberdy said crews were initially focusing on restoring power to two hospitals and a water treatment plant.

“We don't want the water systems in Toronto to go down,” he said.

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Heather Griffin, of Buffalo, New York, and her dog Sal walk beneath ice-covered trees in Buffalo, New York on Sunday, Dec. 22.

(AP)

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