Christmas storm's death toll up to 6 as it continues trek toward East Coast
Fatalities reported in 4 states
41 Action News Staff
4:44 AM, Dec 26, 2012
12:30 PM, Dec 26, 2012
The death toll from the Christmas Day storm still moving across the U.S. has risen to six with new deaths reported Wednesday in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
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.
The Highway Patrol had earlier reported that a 28-year-old woman was killed in a crash on a snowy highway near Fairview, Okla. Another crash in Oklahoma on Tuesday involved 21 vehicles. At least 12 people were hurt, but none of them had serious injuries.
The storm's winds were also blamed Tuesday for toppling a tree onto a pickup truck in Texas, killing the driver, and another tree onto a house in Louisiana, killing a man there.
Snow blew across southern portions of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana early Wednesday as the storm tracked up the Ohio River valley toward the Eastern seaboard and New England. There were whiteout conditions in southwestern Indiana, where 6 inches or more of snow had fallen by midmorning.
By 10 a.m., Indianapolis had 7 inches of snow on the ground -- including as much as 3 inches in a single hour.
"The storm will most likely affect the southeast corner of Missouri and we anticipate sustained strong winds and heavy snowfall," state maintenance engineer Beth Wright said in a statement from the Missouri Department of Transportation advising against travel in the southeast corner of the state. "This storm could create whiteout conditions, which will make travel hazardous and clearing roads extremely difficult."
State police reported a number of slide-off accidents in the Evansville, Ind., area. And there are white-out conditions on Interstate 64.
In snowy Arkansas, the storm left more than 189,000 customers without electricity Wednesday, utility Entergy Arkansas said.
The National Weather Service says 34 tornadoes were reported Tuesday in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The National Weather Service says a tornado hit in Mobile, Ala., where a spokesman for the fire rescue department said several buildings were damaged.
One woman says the extent of that damage is hard to fathom.
"I was just, you know, totally speechless about how much damage there was," the unidentified woman told WALA. She said some of her neighbors were trapped in their homes.
"Some of our family members were rescuing people, you know, kind of bringing them to my aunt's house," she said. "It was the only one of the main houses that were not -- that was not damaged."
Rick Cauley's family was hosting relatives for Christmas when the tornado sirens went off in Mobile. Not taking any chances, he and his wife, Ashley, hustled everyone down the block to take shelter at the athletic field house at Mobile's Murphy High School.
It turns out, that wasn't the place to head.
"As luck would have it, that's where the tornado hit," Cauley said. "The pressure dropped and the ears started popping and it got crazy for a second." They were all fine, though the school was damaged, as were a church and several homes, but officials say no one was seriously injured.
Camera footage captured the approach of the large, frightening funnel cloud.
Mobile was the biggest city hit 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.
Trees fell on homes and across roadways in several communities in southern Mississippi and Louisiana. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in the state, saying eight counties reported damages and some injuries.
It included McNeill, where 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.
Drenching rainstorms rumbled across Georgia early Wednesday without causing any apparent damages. But Georgia Power officials said thousands lost power in the state as the storm system moved on toward the Carolinas, taking aim at the heavily populated Eastern seaboard.
Farther north on a line from Little Rock, Ark., to Cleveland, blizzard conditions were predicted before the snow -- up to a foot in some places -- made its way into the Northeast.
Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for the Carolinas. A line of blizzard and winter storm warnings extends to New York and on to Maine.
Police are reporting scores of accidents on snow-covered highways in central and western Maryland.
The Associated Press and CNN Contributed to this Report