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Extreme weather brings US tornadoes, wild temperature swings, record heat

An unusual range of extreme weather – including tornadoes, record-breaking freezes, and soaring temperatures – hit the United States from coast to coast on Presidents Day weekend.

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Getting a first-hand science lesson on Monday's school holiday, watching ice floes move in the Missouri River at Keelboat Park in Bismarck, N.D., are, from left Daniel Swift, 12, Rachel Swift, 15, Ashton Houim, 11, and dog Sandy. Warm weather conditions in North Dakota has caused an early melt and breakup of ice in the river with a large ice jam forming in the river channel between Bismarck and Mandan.

Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

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Extreme weather from record highs to dangerous lows swept the continental United States for Valentine’s Day, as Bostonians battled frozen pipes and tornadoes damaged dozens of homes in the South.

Suspected tornadoes swept through the Florida Panhandle and Mississippi on Monday, storms spun off from the East Coast’s record-breaking freeze. No deaths or serious injuries were reported, although dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed and thousands were left without power.

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Neighbors in rural Florida used a chain saw to rescue one 94 year-old woman from her home in Century, Escambia County, where one of three suspected tornadoes struck on Presidents Day. Donald Pugh said that his neighbor had been trapped beneath a damaged metal door.

"It took us quite a while," Mr. Pugh told reporters. His neighbor did not appear to have serious injuries, but was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Escambia County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Dewes, who witnessed the tornado from his patrol car, told local news station WDTN he had "never seen one form that big and that fast."

Another suspected tornado that passed through 19 counties struck a school in Wesson, Miss., damaging two gyms and a library, although no children were injured.

In the Northeast, meanwhile, most celebrated Valentine’s Day indoors, as record-breaking lows swept the region. Temperatures slipped below zero in cities like New York and Boston, setting breaking decades-old records. In Boston, the -9 degree low shattered the previous cold record from 1934. With windchill, temps in nearby Worcester reached -44 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the cold weather broke overnight Monday night with snow quickly turning to sleet and rain by Tuesday morning. New Englanders did a double take as forecasters predicted temps in the high-40s to mid-50s by Tuesday afternoon. A high wind warning of up to 60 mph is in effect for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island until late Tuesday night.

Some 4 to 8 inches of snow were expected in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and western New York.

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In the mid-Atlantic and Southeast, the winter weather brought dangerous driving conditions. Virginia State Police reported at least three traffic deaths, and encouraged drivers to stay home Tuesday morning.

In the Southwest, however, temps soared so high that Phoenix officials issued hot-weather warnings, reminding people to stay hydrated and not leave pets or children in cars. Record-breaking highs of 89 and 92 degrees were forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. And 89-degree weekend weather in Los Angeles also broke a record, set in 1977.  

This report contains material from the Associated Press.