Tornadoes hit Gulf Coast states on Christmas Day - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Tornadoes hit Gulf Coast states on Christmas Day

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A large tornado reportedly hit Mobile, AL. (Source: WALA) A large tornado reportedly hit Mobile, AL. (Source: WALA)
Snow is falling across Shreveport, LA after severe storms blasted through the area earlier in the day. (Source: KSLA) Snow is falling across Shreveport, LA after severe storms blasted through the area earlier in the day. (Source: KSLA)
Storm damage in Houston County, TX. The National Weather Service reported at least three possible tornado touch downs. (Source: KTRE) Storm damage in Houston County, TX. The National Weather Service reported at least three possible tornado touch downs. (Source: KTRE)
Storm damage in Houston County, TX. The National Weather Service reported at least three possible tornado touch downs. (Source: KTRE) Storm damage in Houston County, TX. The National Weather Service reported at least three possible tornado touch downs. (Source: KTRE)

(RNN) - On a day when families gathered around the Christmas table, residents of Alabama found themselves huddled together in storm shelters as a line of powerful storms blew through the state.

A dangerous tornado hit parts of Mobile, AL the second to touch down in the Port City in a week.

A towercam from Mobile TV affiliate WALA caught the tornado moving through downtown.

Steve Huffman, the public information officer for Mobile Fire-Rescue, said that the tornado was not very wide and was on the ground for a mile or two.

"Trinity Episcopal Church had the roof blown off and a hole in the wall but the church is still standing," Huffman said.

Mobile Fire and Rescue crews went door-to-door to check for injuries, and so far none have been reported.

Murphy High School sustained damage, and windows were blown out and ceiling tiles fell at the Mobile Infirmary where patients were moved to interior hallways during the tornado.  The hospital is currently operating on generator power.

Crystal Rivers Curry was at the Battlehouse Hotel when she captured the twister on video. Transformers blew, momentarily lighting up the sky, as the tornado twisted through downtown Mobile.

Throughout the day, sirens blared as multiple tornado warnings were issued across the state. So far, the storms have left 27,600 Alabama Power customers in the dark. More than 23,000 of those were in the Mobile area.

"We will work on the state level to do everything we can to help communities across the state. The people of Alabama are strong. We will recover together," said Gov. Robert Bentley in a statement.

The storm was part of a dangerous line sweeping across the southeast on Christmas Day.

Snowy and blizzard conditions are following up severe weather that continues to move east across the Southern states.

Tornadoes touched down near Houston, TX, Pearl River County Mississippi, near Ledoux, LA, and Mobile, AL, according to the National Weather Service and EMA officials.

Severe weather has already claimed the lives of two people.

A 25-year-old Texas man was killed after a tree fell on his pickup truck as he was driving on the northwest side of Houston, Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland said. Officials suspected high winds knocked the tree down, according to CNN.

On Christmas Eve, an accident in Smyrna, GA claimed the life of 46-year-old Luca Kosic, of Marietta. Investigators believe weather conditions including extreme dense fog were a contributing factor in this collision, according to the Associated Press.

According to WLOX, about a dozen homes in Pearl River County, MS, have been damaged by the line of severe weather that is racing across the coast. There are injuries reported. But, according to the county's emergency management director, none of those injuries are life-threatening.

A blizzard warning has been issued for northeast Arkansas from 3 p.m. Christmas Day through 9 a.m. Dec. 26, as well as winter weather warnings for north and central parts of the state.

KAIT in Jonesboro, AR, warns that blizzard conditions with snow accumulations of 6 to 10 inches possible, strong winds, and visibility at times down to less than a quarter of a mile as the storm system moves in.

In Missouri, liquid salt trucks are already preparing roads for the approaching storm.

"Those roads are slick and, if you don't have to get out, please don't get out," Mark Shelton with the Missouri Department of Transportation told KCTV.

Art Faulkner, director of the Emergency Management Agency in Alabama, said Christmas adds extra challenges for severe weather because people are visiting unfamiliar areas, and are more tuned in to holiday festivities than their weather radio.

Faulkner briefed both local officials and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on plans for dealing with a possible outbreak, according to WSFA.

"Conditions change one way or the other and when you do have severe weather that could impact the state that it could be worse or it may not be as bad," Faulkner said. "So what we're urging people to do it have a plan."

Faulkner said many state agencies have additional personnel on stand-by, and the Red Cross is also available to open shelters if needed.

The storm will move eastward, putting northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in its sights on Wednesday. 

The same storm set to trigger the impending severe weather outbreak will also spread a swath of significant snow from the southern plains to the eastern Great Lakes and northeast from Christmas Day to Thursday.

The Ohio River Valley, from Paducah, KY up through the Evansville, IN are could see blizzard conditions and 8 to 11 inches of snow.

Wind gusts could reach up to 40 mph.

The storm system caused damage early. Freezing rain caused an early morning pile-up of more than 20 cars near Oklahoma City, OK. Ten people were taken to area hospitals, but the injuries were non-life-threatening.

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