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Winter Storms, Tornado Threats for Christmas in U.S.

Severe weather could make travel 'hazardous or impossible' in some areas

(AP Photo)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Forecasts of snow, sleet and freezing rain threatened to complicate Christmas Day travel around the nation's midsection Tuesday as several Gulf Coast states braced for a chance of twisters and powerful thunderstorms.

A blizzard watch was posted for parts of Indiana and western Kentucky for storms expected to develop Tuesday amid predictions of up to 4 to 7 inches of snow in coming hours. Much of Oklahoma and Arkansas braced under a winter storm warning of an early mix of rain and sleet later turning to snow.

Some mountainous areas of Arkansas' Ozark Mountains could get up to 10 inches of snow amid warnings travel could become "very hazardous or impossible" in the northern tier of the state from near whiteout conditions, the National Weather Service said.

Early Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said some bridges and overpasses were already becoming slick. Also, Kathleen O'Shea with Oklahoma Gas and Electric said the utility was tracking the storm system to see where repair crews might be needed among nearly 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Elsewhere, areas of east Texas and Louisiana braced for possible thunderstorms as forecasters eyed a swath of the Gulf Coast from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle for the threat of any tornadoes.

Storms expected during the day Tuesday along the Gulf Coast could bring strong tornadoes or winds of more than 75 mph, heavy rain, quarter-sized hail and dangerous lightning in Louisiana and Mississippi, the weather service said.

"Please plan now for how you will receive a severe weather warning, and know where you will go when it is issued. It only takes a few minutes, and it will help everyone have a safe Christmas," Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said.

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; and those of Dec. 24-25, 1964, when two people were killed and about 30 people injured by 14 tornadoes in seven states.

In Alabama, the director of the Emergency Management Agency, Art Faulkner, said he has briefed both local officials and Gov. Robert Bentley on plans for dealing with a possible outbreak of storms.

No day is good for severe weather, but Faulkner said Christmas adds extra challenges because people are visiting unfamiliar areas and often thinking more of snow than possible twisters.

"We are trying to get the word out through our media partners and through social media that people need to be prepared," Faulkner said

During the night, flog blanketed highways at times in the Southeast, including arteries in Atlanta where motorists slowed as a precaution. Fog advisories were posted from Alabama through the Carolinas into southwestern Virginia.

Several communities in Louisiana went ahead with the annual Christmas Eve lighting more than 100 towering log teepees for annual bonfires to welcome Pere Noel along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. That decision came after fire chiefs and local officials decided to go ahead with the tradition after an afternoon conference call with the National Weather Service.

In California, after a brief reprieve across the northern half of the state on Monday, wet weather was expected to make another appearance on Christmas Day. Flooding and snarled holiday traffic were expected in Southern California.

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Andreas Schuck

I live in Wisconsin.. I grew up with snow in Germany and I love the four seasons... I am able easy to give up Hurricanes, Tornadoes, earth quakes etc etc like in the south, west or east..The other day I saw a movie, telling the end of the world and the statement in the last sentence in it was "Everyone has relatives in Wisconsin" Yep, it seems to me it's pretty safe so good luck somewhere else :)

December 25 2012 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We in Mn are used to the frigid weather. Heh heh

December 25 2012 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most of my 81 years in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Montana, North Dakota, and finally in Anchorage Alaska where we have 3+ seasons - winter, "breakup" and summer (+ fall which usually happens when you aren't looking).

Spent a Dec-Jan in Jacksonville FL and 2 years in SFO bay area. Winter without snow?


December 25 2012 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Snow can be unpleasant but tornadoes are deadly.

December 25 2012 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've lived in Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma and now Arizona, and you can have the cold weather. I wear short pants year around, have not had a pair of long pants on in over 3 years when I retired.

December 25 2012 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello Ward's

We love the desert more everyday after hearing about all the snow storms

December 25 2012 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Live in Indiana. Have all my life. I'll be 46 in a couple of days and I LOVE the snow. Bring it on! It's great to have 4 seasons, and there's nothing like playing out in the snow to keep you young.

December 25 2012 at 1:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to teresathegreat12's comment

I am from Indy also and love the snow but this year I am in Va. visiting my son, d-in-law and 9 grandchildren first Christmas with them ever Navy people move around a lot lol. So I am going to miss the first big snow of the season.

December 25 2012 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Live in the desert Southern NM across the Rio Grande from Las Cruces ,after living in upstate NY ,Constantia to be exact most of my life I'll take the desert lifestyle..

December 25 2012 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i love living in florida no snow very little cold yippie

December 25 2012 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Michael J Grella

you can have florida,give me the 4 seasons anyday. I LOVE winter

December 25 2012 at 10:47 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Michael J Grella's comment

I'm with you the four season are what we need to get rid of some of the junk in the air, which causes so many allergy sufferers to suffer even the more....

December 25 2012 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sweet Charlotte

We do have a season change in FL, just not as drastic as in the northern part of the country. Nice being in the pool on Christmas day.

December 25 2012 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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