Severe weather spawned multiple tornadoes across the southeastern U.S. this week, leaving extensive damage in their wake.
At least 14 people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas Wednesday as a result of the storms. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn told the Associated Press that dozens of injuries occurred.
Northern Mississippi suffered some of the worst damage due to a preliminary EF-3 rated tornado with an exceptionally long track, according to the National Weather Service. If confirmed to be continuous, its 150-mile-long path could be the longest for a December tornado in the mid-south, NWS Memphis said.
The Storm Prediction Center received 24 tornado reports on Wednesday from Illinois to Alabama, an usually high number for one outbreak at his time of year.
Wednesday was an extremely rare event for this late in the year," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Edwards said.
"The fact that temperatures have been well above normal across much of the East certainly contributed to a volatile atmosphere. With such a big temperature contrast across the country, conditions were ripe for a severe weather outbreak."
Edwards added that it was the first time since June 2014 that the Storm Prediction Center had to issue a "particularly dangerous situation" alert.
In the eastern United States, one of the warmest Christmas Eve's on record unfolded as temperatures soared 15-35 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
Daily record highs were set in Philadelphia, New York City, Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, North Carolina, and many other locations.
New York City reached 72 F on Christmas Eve, surpassing the old record of 63 degrees set in 1996. It climbed to 82 degrees in Norfolk, Virginia, breaking the record of 75 F from 1891.
"A northward bulge in the jet stream was responsible for the warmth in the East this week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
Several AccuWeather meteorologists and staff writers contributed content to this article.