(We're weaving new information into the top of this post and in updates below.)
At least six deaths, substantial damage and an increasing number of travel delays are being blamed on a storm system that has brought snow to the Midwest and tornadoes to the Deep South and is now pummeling parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Forecasters warned on Christmas Eve that things could get rough, and they were right.
Reporter John Sharp at Mobile's Press-Register has a firsthand 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 past day or so.
All told, there were "34 possible tornadoes" reported across the region, ABC News says.
The first three storm-related deaths reported were: near Houston, where a falling tree killed the driver of a pickup truck; in Rayville, La., where a man died after a tree fell on his house; and in Fairview, Okla., where a woman died in a traffic accident on a snowy highway.
Late this morning, The Associated Press said the death toll had risen to at least six. The wire service reported that "two passengers in a car on a sleet-slickened Arkansas highway died Wednesday when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck an SUV head-on. In Oklahoma, the Highway Patrol said a 76-year-old Wisconsin woman died Tuesday. She was a passenger in a car that was hit head-on when a pickup truck crossed into oncoming traffic on Interstate 44."
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 as of midday today, an additional 900 flights had been canceled, the AP reports. 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. By early afternoon, police had reported "scores of accidents on snow-covered highways in central and western Maryland" as the storm headed north, AP adds.
Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Blizzard Conditions Move North.
The latest AP report starts with this:
"A storm system that is blamed for at least six deaths is spreading blizzard conditions as it moves toward the northeastern United States, slowing holiday travel. Snow blew across southern Illinois and southern Indiana early today as the storm tracked up the Ohio River valley toward the Eastern seaboard and New England."
The wire service adds that another 900 flights had been canceled by midday today, and that "a line of blizzard and winter storm warnings extends to New York and on to Maine."
Update at 10:55 a.m. ET. Death Toll Now At Six:
The Associated Press says there are now at least six storm-related deaths. Along with the three reported earlier in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, the wire service says "two passengers in a car on a sleet-slickened Arkansas highway died Wednesday when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck an SUV head-on. In Oklahoma, the Highway Patrol said a 76-year-old Wisconsin woman died Tuesday. She was a passenger in a car that was hit head-on when a pickup truck crossed into oncoming traffic on Interstate 44."
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. More From The Affected Areas And Some Looks Ahead:
-- From Little Rock, Ark., KATV reports "it was the snowiest Christmas in Little Rock and the second snowiest December day in the city's weather history. Many areas are waking up to no power and up to 13 inches of snow."
-- In Carbondale, Ill., WSIU reports that nearly a foot of snow has been dumped on the area, and that "National Weather Service Lead Forecaster Dan Spaeth says this is the first time the agency has issued a blizzard warning for this region."
-- The Indianapolis Star says roads in the area are treacherous. Indiana route 37 is "at a standstill with about 40 cars stuck in the snow. Indiana Department of Transportation is en route but cleanup may take up to two hours."
-- Winter weather warnings are up across much of West Virginia, The Charleston Gazette says.
-- There's good news in Alabama. "Following the storms that passed through the area on Christmas Day spawning a tornado that hit the Midtown area, the weather today should be mostly sunny," AL.com reports.
-- Washington, D.C., will get a "wintry mix to heavy rain today," and can expect snow later in the week, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
-- Philadelphia can expect "a small amount of snow, followed by heavy rain" today, Philly.com says.
-- The region around Buffalo, N.Y., may get "up to 16 inches of snowfall during the next couple of days," reports the Buffalo News.
Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. The Storm's Current Path:
The National Weather Service's constantly changing "Doppler Radar National Mosaic" image shows how large the storm is — with a tail stretching across Florida and severe weather curling up the East Coast and across parts of the Great Lakes region.
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