Christmas Day Produces Tornadoes, Blizzard-Like Conditions

Damage, Suspended Travel in U.S. Southeast and Midsection

Many Christmas celebrations were left in the dark yesterday, as severe weather battered the Deep South, leaving three dead and over 300,000 without power. Meanwhile, the nation's midsection battled freezing rain and blizzard-like conditions, which paralyzed airline travel and created treacherous driving conditions.

On Tuesday, more than 30 tornadoes touched down in the Southeast—several news sources reported 34—and a large funnel cloud mixed with lightening created a terrifying light display for residents in Mobile, Alabama.

Punishing winds swept through the Gulf region, carving a path of destruction stretching across portions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. The volatile conditions tarnished antebellum homes and damaged various other properties, tearing roofs and even creating an 8-foot-deep sinkhole in Vicksburg, Mississippi. At least three tornadoes touched down in Texas, but only one building was believed to have been damaged there, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has declared a state of emergency in eight counties as a result of the severe storms. So far the most extensive damage in the state appears to be in Pearl River County, where between 12 and 15 homes were destroyed by a twister that send eight people to the hospital.

No claims totals have been released, as insurers enter the early stages of assessing property damage.

“The damage seems scattered, “says Roszell Gadson, a spokesman for State Farm in Alabama. “Not many claims have been reported thus far, probably because of widespread power outages and the fact it was the holidays—so policyholders could be away from home.”

Gadson adds State Farm is, however, making contact with whomever it can, moving assets to any area that needs it most. As for Arkansas, State Farm's Gary Stephenson reports the state is "on snow grid-lock, with scattered power outages but is doing pretty well."

"We did have some wind damage in Texas," Stephenson continues, "but less than two dozen claims reported this morning from our customers.”

At least eight states issued blizzard warnings on Tuesday, and numerous auto accidents were reported in Oklahoma. By Christmas evening, more than 500 flights nationwide had been cancelled, stranding holiday travelers. More than half were canceled into and out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where a few inches of snow were reported.

As winter weather warnings continue to be issued, it's clear that the damage is likely far from over.

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