Tornadoes jumped across the US South, and, along with brutal, straight-line winds, knocked down countless trees, blew the roofs off homes and left many Christmas celebrations in the dark.
Holiday travelers in the nation’s much colder midsection battled treacherous driving conditions from freezing rain and blizzard conditions from the same fast-moving storms.
The storms were blamed for three deaths, several injuries, and left homes from Louisiana to Alabama damaged.
In Mobile, Alabama, a tornado or high winds damaged homes, a high school and a church, and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall.
A large section of the roof on the Trinity Episcopal Church is missing and the front wall of the parish wall is gone, said Scott Rye, a senior warden at the church.
Meanwhile, blizzard conditions hit the nation’s midsection.
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 already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma, and the Highway Patrol there says a 28-year-old woman was killed in a crash on a snowy US Highway near Fairview.
The snowstorm that caused numerous accidents pushed out of Oklahoma late on Tuesday, carrying with it blizzard warnings for parts of northeast Arkansas, where 25cm of snow was forecast.
Freezing rain clung to trees and utility lines in Arkansas and winds gusts up to 48kph whipped them around, causing about 71,000 customers to lose electricity.
Blizzard conditions were possible for parts of Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky with predictions of 10cm to 17.5cm of snow.
Trees fell on a few houses in central Louisiana’s Rapides Parish, but there were no injuries reported, sheriff’s Lieutenant Tommy Carnline said.
Near McNeill, Mississippi, a likely tornado damaged a dozen homes and sent eight people to the hospital, none with life-threatening injuries, said Pearl River County emergency management agency director Danny Manley.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in the state, saying eight counties have reported damage and some injuries.
At least three tornadoes were reported in Texas, though only one building was damaged, according to the National Weather Service.
More than 500 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 that got a few centimeters of snow.
More than 100,000 customers were without power in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.