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Blizzards, tornadoes shake up U.S. on Christmas

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The blizzard conditions hit the Ohio River Valley through Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. These are roads in Evansville, IN. (Source: WFIE) The blizzard conditions hit the Ohio River Valley through Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. These are roads in Evansville, IN. (Source: WFIE)
Heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions began Christmas night in Arkansas. Blizzard warnings go into Wednesday morning. (Source: KTHV/CNN) Heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions began Christmas night in Arkansas. Blizzard warnings go into Wednesday morning. (Source: KTHV/CNN)
Tornadoes ripped through Mobile, AL, on Christmas Day. (Source: WALA/CNN) Tornadoes ripped through Mobile, AL, on Christmas Day. (Source: WALA/CNN)

(RNN) - This Christmas will not be remembered for the great gifts received and the holiday dinner prepared by families in some Gulf Coast and Midwest states.

While Christmas was winding down this year, severe weather began to intensify in the early evening on Christmas, leaving remnants of tornado destruction in its path.

As the tornadoes subsided, areas from Arkansas through the Ohio River Valley were under watches for either heavy snow or blizzard conditions through Wednesday. The storm could drop anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of snow in some places.

According to The Weather Channel, the winter storm has dropped large amounts of snow from coast to coast by the time it leaves New England.

Blizzard and severe winter weather warnings went into effect for many states on Christmas and some are expected to last through Thursday.

"Blizzard warnings stretch for 730 continuous miles due to the winter storm," the Weather Channel reported.

Arkansas got a rare snow storm, with an estimated 10 inches falling in Fayetteville. The inches of snow that fell broke a Dec. 25 snowfall record that had stood for 86 years, according to CNN.

The storms that caused severe weather in Gulf Coast states moved into the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida on Wednesday morning. According to NOAA, the threat of severe weather and tornadoes could affect extreme eastern North Carolina and South Carolina.

"Our probabilities for tornadoes are unusually high. Obviously late December you don't think of as your typical severe weather season but this is a very dynamic storm system," WMBF Meteorologist Jamie Arnold said. "It's already produced a record number of tornadoes so far on Christmas day and we're going to see that threat continue into the Carolina's."

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swiped through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

More than 30 tornadoes were reported from Texas to Alabama on Tuesday.

Tornadoes ripped through the midtown and downtown areas of Mobile, AL, on Christmas afternoon.

The National Weather Service said preliminary indications are that an EF-2 tornado touched down in the Mobile area. The twister cut a path 5.7 miles long and was 200 yards wide as it tore through downtown. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured.

Crystal Rivers Harris caught the tornado barreling through Mobile from her downtown hotel room.

It damaged Murphy High School, destroying the school's athletic facility and blew out windows and flipped a vehicle at the Mobile Infirmary.

An EF-2 tornado produces winds from 111 to 135 miles per hour.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant called for a state of emergency on Tuesday for several counties via Twitter.

In areas where the storm has passed, officials are assessing the damage.

"We've got 10 counties impacted from the storms, more than 25 injures recorded in the counties. 50 homes sustained damaged from minor to destroyed," Robert Latham, Director of the Miss. EMA said.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-2 tornado touched down in Lawrence County, where it destroyed several mobile homes, cutting a more than 9 mile path.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley addressed the storms in the state.

"We will work on the state level to do everything we can to help communities across the state," Gov. Bentley said. "We were blessed, a couple of injuries and no fatalities. We're looking at the damage to see if we have enough to ask the federal government to help. Our local and state government will do what they have to do."

According to Alabama Power's Twitter site, as of 3 p.m., 47,500 customers lost service due to the Christmas storms, but about 45,000 of those customers have had their services restored. Alabama Power also reports that 25,800 of those customers were in Mobile.

While tornadoes are not common on Christmas, southeastern states are more likely to have tornadoes this time of year. Since 1950, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana have had numerous tornadoes during the winter months.

According to the Associated Press, Christmas 1982 saw the deadliest holiday season tornadoes. From Dec. 24 through 26, 1982, 29 tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee, killed three people and injured 32.

Three deaths have been attributed to tornadoes or severe weather in southeastern states this holiday. A 25-year-old man was killed outside of Houston when a tree fell on his car. One woman in Smyrna, GA, was killed while driving due to high fog and low visibility, according to the AP. A 53-year-old man was killed in Louisiana when a tree fell on his home during storms.

The Weather Channel is reporting high-wind advisories throughout the southeastern portion of the U.S. for Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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