MOBILE, Ala. — Twisters hopscotched across the Deep South, and, along with brutal, straight-line winds, knocked down countless trees, blew the roofs off homes and left many Christmas celebrations in the dark. Holiday travelers in the nation's much colder midsection battled treacherous driving conditions from freezing rain and blizzard conditions from the same fast-moving storms.
As predicted, conditions were volatile throughout the day and into the night with tornado warnings still out for some parts of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The storms were blamed for three deaths, several injuries, and left homes from Louisiana to Alabama damaged.
In Mobile, Ala., a tornado or high winds damaged homes, a high school and church, and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall. WALA-TV's tower camera captured the image of a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown.
Rick Cauley, his wife, Ashley, and two children were hosting members of both of their families. When the sirens went off, the family headed down the block to take shelter at the athletic field house at Mobile's Murphy High School.
“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. Hours after the storm hit, officials reported no serious injuries in the southwestern Alabama city.
Meanwhile, blizzard conditions hit the nation's midsection.
Earlier in the day, winds toppled a tree onto a pickup in the Houston area, killing the driver, and a 53-year-old north Louisiana man was killed when a tree fell on his house. Icy roads already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma, and the Highway Patrol there said a 28-year-old woman was killed in a crash on a snowy U.S. Highway near Fairview.
The snowstorm that caused numerous accidents pushed out of Oklahoma late Tuesday, carrying with it blizzard warnings for parts of northeast Arkansas, where 10 inches of snow was forecast.