Nasty Winter Storms Spawn Tornadoes, Blizzards

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NEW YORK) -- A nasty Christmastime storm system spawned blizzard conditions in some states and at least 15 reported tornadoes in the South, damaging homes, taking out power lines and dangerously snarling holiday travel.

Severe weather swept across the United States during the Christmas holiday, bringing tornadoes and intense thunderstorms to the Gulf Coast, while dumping heavy snow and freezing rain on the Southern Plains.

At least 15 tornadoes were reported Tuesday from Texas to Alabama, putting this storm system potentially on track to be one of the largest Christmas day tornado outbreaks on record.

One large tornado was reported in Mobile, Ala., where there are about 19,000 customers without power and 23,429 statewide, according to Alabama Power. Kerry Burns, a Mobile resident originally from Boston, said the storm "sounded like a freight train."

Some buildings in the area, including some churches and a local high school, were reportedly damaged. Douglas Mark Nix, president of the Infirmary Health System, said one of their Mobile hospitals lost power and sustained damage. There were no early reports of injuries to staff or patients.

"We are operating now on generator power," he said. "We do not have substantial damage but we do have a number of windows out and we have some ceiling tiles down, throughout the facility at the main hospital.

"We can run for at least two weeks but I saw power crews out all over the city so I fully expect power to be restored within the next day or so," Nix added.

Eight states were also placed under blizzard warnings, as the storms made highways dangerously slick heading into one of the busiest travel days of the year. ABC News affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City said the weather was being blamed for a 21-vehicle wreck on Interstate 40.

Ice accumulation in Arkansas bent trees and power lines, leaving at least 50,000
customers across the state without power.

The storms, which first brought heavy snow and rain to the Western half of the country before moving east, are being blamed for at least one death in Texas. Investigators in the Houston area told ABC state KTRK-TV in Houston that a young man was trying to move a downed tree that was blocking the roadway when another one snapped and fell on top of him. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

There’s no official word yet on the strength of the string of tornadoes reported Tuesday.

More than 180 flights nationwide were canceled by midday, according to the flight tracker FlightAware.com. More than half were canceled by American Airlines and its regional affiliate, American Eagle.

The storm is expected to hit the Eastern coastal states on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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