At least three deaths, substantial damage and an increasing number of travel delays are being blamed on a storm system that has brought snow to the Midwest, tornadoes to the Deep South and is now heading toward the Northeast.
Forecasters warned on Christmas Eve that things could get rough in the Southeast, and they were right.
Reporter John Sharp at Mobile’s Press-Register has a first-hand account of what it was like when a tornado blew through his neighborhood. He begins with this:
“I’ve heard it from those who’ve been through it plenty of times — ‘It sounds like the roar of a train.’ Finally, I got my confirmation. Yes, indeed it does.”
And here’s what it was like around 5 p.m. ET Tuesday. Sharp was inside his apartment:
“Sirens had started to sound. I turned on TV, but the signal was disrupted. That’s when the wind began to pick up. Then it roared. I moved myself into my bathroom as I heard a clanging noise, like someone taking a large metal spoon to a stock pot. The power then flickered. Once it went off. Then, back on. Off for good. I did what one was supposed to do, I hunkered into my bath tub with my hands above me head curled into a fetal position.
“That’s when I heard the roar and prayed that my building would not collapse on top of me.
“It didn’t. But I knew what I had just heard. It was a tornado.”
According to the newspaper, more than one tornado may have hit the area. The Associated Press says “rare winter twisters” damaged numerous homes in Louisiana as well. And the wire service adds that “Mobile was the biggest city hit by numerous by the rare winter twisters. Along with brutal, straight-line winds, the storms knocked down countless trees, blew the roofs off homes and left many Christmas celebrations in the dark. Torrential rains drenched the region and several places saw flash flooding.”
Tens of thousands in the area have been without power for at least part of the last day or so.
All told, there were “34 possible tornadoes” reported across the region, ABC News says.
The three storm-related deaths were in: Near Houston, where a falling tree killed the driver of a pickup truck; Rayville, La., where a man died after a tree fell on his house; and Fairview, Okla., where a woman died in a traffic accident on a snowy highway.
As for the more “normal” winter weather, The Weather Channel says that the storm system working its way across the nation “will have deposited snow from California’s Sierra to New England” by the time it moves off the East Coast on Friday. It’s going to “track toward the Tennessee Valley and central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states and New England through Wednesday and Thursday. This will produce a stripe of snow from the Ozarks northeastward into the Midwest. Peak snowfall amounts in the 6-12 inch range are expected from parts of Arkansas northeast into Ohio.”
Hundreds of flights were canceled Tuesday and more are likely to be grounded today and through the rest of the week. Travelers in the nation’s midsection — and now the Northeast — are also being warned to either stay off the roads or plan to be off them in coming days.