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Storms wrack US on Christmas

  • A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)

    Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)

  • Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)

    Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)

  • Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES

    Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez) NO SALES

  • A Lawton, Okla., police cruiser tries to navigate the snow as blizzard conditions hit southwest Oklahoma at midday Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Lawton Constitution, Brandon Neris)

    A Lawton, Okla., police cruiser tries to navigate the snow as blizzard conditions hit southwest Oklahoma at midday Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Lawton Constitution, Brandon Neris)

  • Tommy and Cindy Huddleston put the finishing touches on their snowman in Paris, Texas Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 after a strong winter system dropped inches of rain and snow on most of North East Texas. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft)

    Tommy and Cindy Huddleston put the finishing touches on their snowman in Paris, Texas Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 after a strong winter system dropped inches of rain and snow on most of North East Texas. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft)

  • Husband a wife Armando and Gabriela Cruz look at a photo at Pioneer Plaza during a snowstorm on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 in downtown Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Gary Barber)

    Husband a wife Armando and Gabriela Cruz look at a photo at Pioneer Plaza during a snowstorm on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 in downtown Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Gary Barber)

  • Al Horne looks up at the rain falling on homeless people waiting in line to receive a Christmas meal by The Extended Aftercare Alumni volunteers on Christmas morning, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, in downtown Houston. Volunteers distributed a holiday meal, clothes, and hygiene gift packages on Christmas morning in a holiday tradition started to give people new to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction an opportunity to be of service. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran)

    Al Horne looks up at the rain falling on homeless people waiting in line to receive a Christmas meal by The Extended Aftercare Alumni volunteers on Christmas morning, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, in downtown Houston. Volunteers distributed a holiday meal, clothes, and hygiene gift packages on Christmas morning in a holiday tradition started to give people new to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction an opportunity to be of service. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran)

  • Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)

    Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)

  • Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)

    Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)

  • Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)

    Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)

  • Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)

    Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)

  • This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 at 01:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over eastern Canada with a cold front stretching across the central Atlantic Ocean. A low pressure system is moving across the Mississippi Valley into the southeastern United States with areas of rain and scattered thunderstorms. Father north, snow showers are seen over the Mid-West. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

    This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 at 01:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over eastern Canada with a cold front stretching across the central Atlantic Ocean. A low pressure system is moving across the Mississippi Valley into the southeastern United States with areas of rain and scattered thunderstorms. Father north, snow showers are seen over the Mid-West. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

  • This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

    This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

  • This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

    This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

  • Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)

    Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)

  • Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)

    Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)

  • A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • A house in Tioga, La., is severely damaged after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • Members of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department and the VA Fire Department clear debris from U.S. 71 in the Tioga, La. area, after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)
  • Storm clouds roll past Barksdale Pavilion at Jones Park in Gulfport, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. After most of spending Christmas Day with a blustery day and occasional blue skies, storm clouds arrived on the Coast at 4 p. m. The strong south breeze blew most of the bad weather north of the immediate coast line. (AP Photo/The Sun Herald, Tim Isbell)
  • Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • Debris sits on the frontage road near I-49 in downtown Alexandria, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)  NO SALES
  • A Lawton, Okla., police cruiser tries to navigate the snow as blizzard conditions hit southwest Oklahoma at midday Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Lawton Constitution, Brandon Neris)
  • Tommy and Cindy Huddleston put the finishing touches on their snowman in Paris, Texas Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 after a strong winter system dropped inches of rain and snow on most of North East Texas. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft)
  • Husband a wife Armando and Gabriela Cruz look at a photo at Pioneer Plaza during a snowstorm on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 in downtown Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Gary Barber)
  • Al Horne looks up at the rain falling on homeless people waiting in line to receive a Christmas meal by The Extended Aftercare Alumni volunteers on Christmas morning, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, in downtown Houston. Volunteers distributed a holiday meal, clothes, and hygiene gift packages on Christmas morning in a holiday tradition started to give people new to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction an opportunity to be of service. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran)
  • Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)
  • Shoppers line-up to check out at the Sureway Eastgate, in Henderson, Ky., as people stock up on essentials before the forecasted blizzard late Christmas evening, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)
  • Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)
  • Walker Bowerman, 10, left, and Hughes Bowerman, 6, plays with family dogs in the snow in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)
  • This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 at 01:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over eastern Canada with a cold front stretching across the central Atlantic Ocean. A low pressure system is moving across the Mississippi Valley into the southeastern United States with areas of rain and scattered thunderstorms. Father north, snow showers are seen over the Mid-West. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)
  • This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)
  • This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM EST shows a low pressure system over the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley moving into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Snow and snow showers over the Central Plains and Mid Mississippi Valley. Farther north, snow showers are seen over northern New England. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)
  • Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)
  • Geraldine Pedersen and her dog Marlow were in her car traveling down U.S. 71 in the Tioga, Louisiana area when a tree fell down in front of the car and a wind knocked her car into a yard, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. A tornado through the Central Louisiana area. (AP Photo/The Town Talk, Melinda Martinez)

Conditions were volatile throughout the afternoon and into the night with tornado warnings in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The storms were blamed for two deaths, several injuries, and left homes from Louisiana to Alabama damaged.

In Mobile, Ala., a tornado or high winds damaged homes and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall, said Nancy Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Commission. WALA-TV’s tower camera captured a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown.

“We haven’t verified what it was, but we have an area that we heard has damage to homes,” she said.

Meanwhile, blizzard conditions were hitting the nation’s midsection.

Earlier in the day, winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck in the Houston area, killing the driver. Icy roads already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma, and the Highway Patrol says a 28-year-old woman was killed in a crash on a snowy U.S. Highway near Fairview.

The snowstorm that caused numerous accidents pushed out of Oklahoma late Tuesday, carrying with it blizzard warnings for parts of northeast Arkansas, where 10 inches of snow was forecast. Freezing rain clung to trees and utility lines in Arkansas and winds gusts up to 30 mph whipped them around, cutting electricity to thousands.

Blizzard conditions were possible for parts of Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky with predictions of 4 to 7 inches of snow.

No injuries were confirmed immediately, but fire crews were still making door-to-door checks in the hardest hit areas of Mobile. The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department, which was providing storm updates through Twitter, said Murphy High School was damaged and that there was a gas leak at a nearby apartment building.

An apparent tornado caused damage in the west Alabama town of Grove Hill, located about 80 miles north of Mobile.

Mary Cartright said she was working at the Fast Track convenience store in the town on Christmas evening when the wind started howling and the lights flickered, knocking out the store’s computerized cash registers.

“We’ve had some pretty heavy weather,” said Cartright in a phone interview. “Our cash registers are down so our doors are closed.”

Trees fell on a few houses in central Louisiana’s Rapides Parish but there were no injuries reported and crews were cutting trees out of roadways to get to people in their homes, said sheriff’s Lt. Tommy Carnline. Near McNeill, Miss., a likely tornado damaged a dozen homes and sent eight people to the hospital, none with life-threatening injuries, said Pearl River County emergency management agency director Danny Manley.

Fog blanketed highways, including arteries in the Atlanta area, which was expected to be dealing with the same storm system on Wednesday. In New Mexico, drivers across the eastern plains had to fight through snow, ice and low visibility.

At least three tornadoes were reported in Texas, though only one building was damaged, according to the National Weather Service. Tornado watches were in effect across southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

More than 400 flights nationwide were canceled by the evening, according to the flight tracker FlightAware.com. More than half were canceled into and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport that got a few inches of snow.

Christmas lights also were knocked out with more than 100,000 customers without power in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

In Louisiana, quarter-sized hail was reported early Tuesday in the western part of the state and a WDSU viewer sent a photo to the TV station of what appeared to be a waterspout around the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans. There were no reports of crashes or damage.

Some mountainous areas of Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains could get up to 10 inches of snow, which would make travel “very hazardous or impossible” in the northern tier of the state from near whiteout conditions, the National Weather Service said.

The holiday may conjure visions of snow and ice, but twisters this time of year are not unheard of. Ten storm systems in the last 50 years have spawned at least one Christmastime tornado with winds of 113 mph or more in the South, said Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman in Washington, via email.

The most lethal were the storms of Dec. 24-26, 1982, when 29 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi killed three people and injured 32.

In Mobile, a large section of the roof on the Trinity Episcopal Church is missing and the front wall of the parish wall is gone, said Scott Rye, a senior warden at the church in the Midtown section of the city.

On Christmas Eve, the church with about 500 members, was crowded for services.

“Thank God this didn’t happen last night,” Rye said.

The church finished a $1 million-plus renovation campaign in June 2011, which required the closure of the historic sanctuary for more than a year.

———

Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., and AP Business Writer Daniel Wagner in Washington, contributed to this report.

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