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South, Midwest hit by storms that kill 3

Firefighters clear debris from U.S. 71 in Tioga, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday. Winter storms damaged homes from Louisiana to Alabama

Associated Press

Firefighters clear debris from U.S. 71 in Tioga, La., after an apparent tornado tore through the area Tuesday. Winter storms damaged homes from Louisiana to Alabama

A twister outbreak on Christmas Day left damage across the South, while holiday travelers in the nation's much colder midsection battled sometimes treacherous driving conditions from freezing rain and blizzard conditions.

Conditions were volatile into the night with tornado warnings in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. At least three tornadoes were reported in Texas.

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 and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall, said Nancy Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Commission. WALA-TV's tower camera captured a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown.

Earlier in the day, winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck 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 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. Freezing rain clung to trees and utility lines in Arkansas, and winds gusts whipped them around, causing about 71,000 customers to lose power.

Blizzard conditions were possible for parts of Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky with predictions of 4 to 7 inches of snow.

More than 400 flights nationwide were canceled by the evening, according to the flight tracker FlightAware.com. More than half were canceled at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which got a few inches of snow.

In Mobile, no injuries were confirmed, but fire crews were still making door-to-door checks in the hardest-hit areas. The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department said Murphy High School was damaged and there was a gas leak at an apartment building.

An apparent tornado caused damage in the west Alabama town of Grove Hill, located about 80 miles north of Mobile.

Mary Cartright said she was working at the Fast Track convenience store in the town when the wind started howling and the lights flickered. "We've had some pretty heavy weather," she said in a phone interview. "Our cash registers are down so our doors are closed."

Trees fell on a few houses in central Louisiana's Rapides Parish but there were no injuries reported, said sheriff's Lt. Tommy Carnline.

Near McNeill, Miss., a likely tornado damaged a dozen homes and sent eight people to the hospital, officials said.

South, Midwest hit by storms that kill 3 12/25/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 10:48pm]

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