UPDATE 2-Storm brings white Christmas, tornado threat to central U.S.

Reuters Middle East

* Blizzard conditions from Arkansas to S.Illinois expected

* Snow expected to target Great Lakes, Northeast Wednesday

(Adds power outages, blizzard threats)

WASHINGTON, Dec 25 (Reuters) - A major winter storm brought

a rare white Christmas to the southern U.S. plains on Tuesday,

contributing to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut down a major

highway in Oklahoma, thousands of power outages and the death of

a Texas man.

The storm system surging east from Kansas and the Texas

Panhandle included tornados and severe thunderstorms along its

southern fringe, from southeastern Texas to Alabama, the

National Weather Service said.

The service reported a tornado warning for the Mobile,

Alabama area late Tuesday afternoon.

CenterPoint Energy reported more than 20,000 customers

without power in the Houston area Tuesday afternoon.

The storm is expected to expected to evolve into a blizzard

from Arkansas to southern Illinois Tuesday night, with snowfall

of up to a foot in some areas, according to Accuweather.com.

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 lowers


The snowstorm will shift Wednesday to the eastern Great

Lakes and northeast, she said.

Southern Indiana is under a blizzard warning starting early

Wednesday morning, according to National Weather Service

meteorologist Crystal Pettet. Indianapolis could see its biggest

snowfall in four years, with a possibility of 10-12 inches of


"Conditions should be pretty bad in time for rush hour,"

said Pettet.

A 25-year-old Texas man was killed Tuesday when a tree fell

across a road in Harris County, in the Houston metropolitan

area, according to Thomas Gilliland of the county's sheriff's


A tornado destroyed a building 13 miles (21 km) southeast of

Crockett, Texas, and a bank lost a section of its roof,

according to Accuweather.com.

Freezing drizzle overnight led to 10 separate collisions on

Interstate 40 at Oklahoma City just before 3 a.m., said Trooper

Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

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 are checking

on the severity of their injuries.

In a rare taste of Christmas snow, Oklahoma City was

forecast to get 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm) of the white stuff

on Tuesday. The city's biggest Christmas snowfall was 6.5 inches

(16.2 cm) in 1914, and measurable amounts have been recorded

only a handful of times on the date.

The FlightAware website, which tracks flight delays,

reported departure delays of 40 minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth

International Airport at 5 p.m. local time and 32 minutes from

Chicago/O'Hare International Airport.

San Francisco International Airport had delays for inbound

flights of over an hour due to low clouds.

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

National Weather Service said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by

Sandra Maler and Todd Eastham)

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