Severe storms swept through several Southern U.S. states Tuesday night, killing four people, injuring at least 20 others, flipping over cars, damaging numerous homes and businesses and ushering in a series of bad weather that may snarl Christmas Eve travel throughout much of the country.
Five tornadoes were reported in Mississippi, while others also hit Georgia and Louisiana. The worst damage occurred in Jones and Marion counties in southern Mississippi. The tornado that started around 2 p.m. in Amite, Louisiana, crossed into Columbia, Mississippi, and moved northeast into the state, according to officials. Two Columbia residents -- one in a trailer park and another in a strip mall -- were killed by the deadly storm. Another two residents in the Jones County town of Laurel died in a mobile home that was in the tornado’s path.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a state of emergency for the two affected counties. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the four individuals who lost their lives today during the severe weather that pushed through the state," Bryant said in a statement.
A tornado watch continued in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida on Wednesday, as the National Weather Service warned of a continuing strong storm system that would bring hazardous travel weather to a large swathe of the eastern United States. The agency said the storm system would bring widespread rain throughout eastern states, plus snow and wind in the Great Lakes region. In the western U.S., a Pacific storm system is expected to bring snow showers from the state of Washington through the Rocky Mountains.
“This will create a variety of weather impacts for Christmas travelers on Wednesday,” said the National Weather Service. “A broad area of steady rain is expected from Florida to New England, with the heaviest rainfall occurring south of the Virginia state line. The Southeast states will also have some strong to severe thunderstorms ahead of the cold front.”
The rain and snow on Wednesday caused several delays at major airports and created treacherous driving conditions for holiday travelers. The Federal Aviation Administration’s flight-delay map showed the worst delays at New York’s LaGuardia and JFK airports, and at Philadelphia International Airport. Flight delays are expected to spread through airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, reports CNN.
According to the American Automobile Association, some 98.6 million Americans were expected to hit the road this holiday season, an increase of 4 percent from last year.
— wdsu (@wdsu) December 24, 2014
Columbia MS hit hard by tornado moments ago. Please pray. pic.twitter.com/vUqXDqCi6z
— Randall Buchanan (@kingsinvitation) December 23, 2014