NEW ORLEANS – Christmas Day along the Gulf Coast was filled with severe thunderstorms that brought drenching rains, high winds and damaging tornadoes while the nation’s midsection dealt with freezing rain, sleet and snow that made for a sloppy and sometimes dangerous trek for holiday travelers.
Winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck in the Houston area, killing the driver. Icy roads already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma. The National Weather Service tweeted that a tornado was headed toward downtown Mobile, Ala..
Near McNeill, Miss., winds from a storm, possibly a tornado, damaged a dozen homes and injured several people, none seriously, said Pearl River County emergency management agency director Danny Manley.
Trees fell on a few houses in central Louisiana’s Rapides Parish but there were no injuries reported, said sheriff’s Lt. Tommy Carnline.
In New Mexico, drivers across the eastern plains had to fight through snow, ice and low visibility.
At least three tornadoes were reported in Texas, though only one building was damaged, according to the National Weather Service. Tornado watches were in effect across southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
Nearly 350 flights nationwide were canceled by the evening, according to the flight tracker FlightAware.com. More than half were canceled into and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which got a few inches of snow.
More than 70,000 people lost power in east Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
In Louisiana, quarter-sized hail was reported early Tuesday in the western part of the state and a WDSU viewer sent a photo to the TV station of what appeared to be a waterspout around the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, blizzard conditions were possible for parts of Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky. Much of Oklahoma and Arkansas braced under a winter storm warning. About a dozen counties in Missouri were under a blizzard warning.