The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 26, 2012

Snowstorm heads east after South twisters; 3 dead

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — An enormous storm system that dumped snow and sleet on the nation's midsection and unleashed damaging tornadoes around the Deep South began punching its way toward the Northeast on Wednesday, slowing holiday travel.

Post-Christmas travelers braced for flight delays and a raft of weather warnings for drivers, a day after rare winter twisters damaged buildings in Louisiana and Alabama.

Snow and ice covered roads in southern Illinois and southern Indiana early Wednesday. Officials urged residents to stay home if they can. State police reported numerous slide-off accidents in the Evansville, Ind., area and white-out conditions on Interstate 64 in Indiana with wind gusts around 30 mph.

The storm system headed from the Gulf Coast to New England has been blamed for three deaths and several injuries, though no one was killed outright in the tornadoes. The storms also left more than 100,000 without power for a time across the South, darkening Christmas celebrations.

Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the Carolinas while a line of blizzard and winter storm warnings stretched from Arkansas up the Ohio River to New York and on to Maine.

Thirty-four tornadoes were reported in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during the outbreak Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Rick Cauley's family was hosting relatives for Christmas when 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 in Mobile.

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.

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