UPDATE 4-Storm brings tornadoes, snow to US South; 2 dead

Kaija Wilkinson
Reuters Middle East

* Winter storm system brings snow to U.S. South

* Tornado touches down in Mobile, Ala.

* Two killed in weather-related accidents

(Includes damage from other tornadoes, adds death)

MOBILE, Ala., Dec 25 (Reuters) - A major winter storm system

swept through the southern United States on Tuesday, 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 5 p.m.

local time (2300 GMT). 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 overnight.

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.

Tuesday's 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, with snowfall of

up to a foot (30.5 cm) 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 lowers


The Indiana governor's office issued an advisory Tuesday

evening that "non-essential employees" who live in areas where

snow emergencies have been declared do not have to come to work.

The snowstorm will shift on Wednesday to the eastern Great

Lakes and northeastern region, with a blizzard warning in effect

for Cleveland starting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (1200 GMT),

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 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30.5 cm) of


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

Pettet said.


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 Management Agency.

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 New


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 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 said.

(Reporting by Kaija Wilkinson, Ian Simpson and Mary Wisniewski;

Editing by Sandra Maler, Todd Eastham and Paul Simao)

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