Downed trees and power lines along with a damaged traffic light caused by a Christmas Day tornado are seen along Dauphin Street in Mobile, Alabama. Photo by Reuters
A major winter storm system has swept through the southern
United States, spawning tornadoes in several states and
killing two people in weather-related road accidents.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said a tornado struck
Mobile, Alabama, home to about 200,000 people, at about 5pm
(local time). There were reports of damage to trees and
widespread power outages, along with some structural damage,
but no injuries or fatalities.
Tornadoes also touched down in Mississippi, Texas and
Louisiana, flattening houses and causing some injuries,
according to the NWS.
The wild Christmas weather was expected to continue into
early Wednesday - the NWS' Storm Prediction Center forecasted
the development of "a few strong tornadoes and thunderstorm
wind damage over parts of the southeast" this evening and
It warned that tornadoes at night at this time of year can be
particularly dangerous because they are usually fast-moving
and obscured by rain and darkness. Areas mostly likely to be
hit by strong storms include southern and eastern Alabama,
the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia, the NWS warned.
The storms also contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut
down a major highway in Oklahoma City and tens of thousands
of power outages.
A Texas man died after an accident involving a tree in the
road, and another person died in a weather-related accident
on I-44 in Oklahoma, according to local authorities.
The storm was expected to evolve into a blizzard from
Arkansas to southern Illinois on Tuesday night (local time),
with snowfall of up to 30cm in some areas, according to
Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski
warned on the website that travel will be "extremely
treacherous, if not impossible, as the snow clogs roads, such
as interstates 24, 55 and 57, and the blowing snow severely
The Indiana governor's office issued an advisory on Tuesday
evening that "non-essential employees" who live in areas
where snow emergencies have been declared do not have to come
The snowstorm will shift on Wednesday to the eastern Great
Lakes and northeastern region, with a blizzard warning in
effect for Cleveland starting at 7am on Wednesday,
forecasters said. Cleveland could get up to a foot of snow,
according to the NWS.
Southern Indiana is under a blizzard warning starting early
Wednesday morning, according to NWS meteorologist Crystal
Pettet. Indianapolis could see its biggest snowfall in four
years, with a possibility of 25cm to 30cm of snow.
"Conditions should be pretty bad in time for rush hour,"
In the town of McNeill in southern Mississippi, an apparent
tornado destroyed 12 homes and injured eight people, though
none of the injuries appear life-threatening, said Danny
Manley, director of the Pearl River County Emergency
Manley said the homes could not be rebuilt, as some had lost
roofs and their top stories and one was smashed by a tree.
Another apparent tornado hit Centreville, Mississippi, in the
southwestern part of the state, injuring one person,
destroying a trailer and heavily damaging other homes and
buildings, according to Tim Destri, a NWS meteorologist in
A tornado destroyed a building 21km southeast of Crockett,
Texas, and a bank lost a section of its roof, according to
Freezing drizzle overnight led to 10 separate collisions on
Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City early on Tuesday, said Betsy
Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The
city also got a rare Christmas snowfall.
The 21-vehicle pile-up included three tractor-trailers and
shut down the westbound lanes for about five hours, she said.
Twelve people were taken to hospitals, and troopers were
checking on the severity of their injuries.
Ahead of the storm's path, parts of eastern West Virginia are
under a winter storm warning. Ice accumulations of up to half
an inch (1.25 cm) are expected in higher elevations, the NWS