Bye, dangerous cold; Hello, sleet and snow along eastern US

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Residents along the eastern U.S., freed from bitter, dangerous cold temperatures on Valentine's Day, couldn't even pause to take a slightly warmer breath before the next winter weather hurdle showed up. Snow, sleet and rain fell across the mid-Atlantic states while tornados rolled through the South.

With federal offices and many businesses closed for Washington's Birthday, though, many people were able to hunker down at home.

Officials in Mississippi were investigating reports of at least two possible tornadoes. Windows were blown out in cars, and ceilings were damaged at a K-12 school.

The tornadoes were part of a large winter storm system accompanied by rain, strong winds, snow and sleet. Snow totals ranging from 1 to 4 inches were predicted from Washington to northern New Jersey. National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Sullivan said there could be significant snowfall — 4 to 8 inches — in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York. Some mountainous areas could get even more snow.

The weather could have less of an impact because schools and many workplaces were closed for the federal holiday, and traffic was lighter than usual.

In Virginia, the state police asked motorists to delay any unnecessary travel until weather conditions could improve. By late afternoon, authorities were on the scene of 37 traffic crashes statewide, including a fatal crash in Fauquier County. Troopers also were responding to nine disabled vehicles across Virginia. They already had responded to 538 traffic crashes and 347 disabled vehicles for the day.

In North Carolina, light freezing rain, sleet and snow caused wrecks and closed schools and businesses. The National Weather Service said the precipitation was light Monday morning, but with temperatures in the 20s, it was freezing immediately on bridges, roads and other surfaces.

By Tuesday, when temperatures get higher, the rain and some runoff could cause flooding in some areas, Sullivan said.

Sunday's teeth-chattering temperatures were some of the coldest on record.

In several Northeastern cities — including New York, Boston and Hartford, Connecticut — temperatures on Sunday morning dipped below zero, falling to minus 40 on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

The National Weather Service said the temperature in New York City's Central Park fell to minus 1, a record low for the date. The last time it was below zero in Central Park was in January 1994.

Boston reached minus 9, breaking the record set in 1934 by 6 degrees. It reached minus 16 in Worcester, Massachusetts, breaking the 1979 record of 11 below zero. Providence, Rhode Island, hit minus 9 and Hartford reached minus 12, also breaking records from 1979.

In Montpelier, Vermont, the overnight temperature hit minus 19, tying a record set in 2003. And South Lincoln, Vermont, recorded 27 below zero.

Temperatures were so low in some spots, utilities were knocked out. A frozen regulator left about 400 customers in Connecticut without natural gas service, and officials believe extreme cold in Vermont broke a utility pole, knocking out service to about 1,500.

An emergency generator didn't kick in for Sheffield Selectboard Chairman Walter Smith, who said he lost a greenhouse full of about 500 orchids.

"I've got it working now, but it's too late," he said.

On Sunday, officials were concerned by the cold they said was dangerous and could be fatal to those spending too much time outdoors — especially the homeless.

Outreach teams brought 105 people into New York shelters, and 288 showed up at hospitals and health facilities, including more than 20 who were brought in for care needed immediately, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.