US Weather: Americans wake up to a White Christmas… but blizzards and tornadoes threaten to cause travel chaos for millions

Scores of Americans wake up to a White Christmas… but blizzards and tornadoes threaten to cause travel chaos for millions
More than 150 million Americans see snow when they wake up on Christmas DayBlizzard watch in effect for parts of Kentucky and Indiana

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UPDATED:

21:12 GMT, 25 December 2012

Freezing rain and sleet made for a sloppy Christmas morning trek in parts of the nation's midsection on Tuesday, while residents along the Gulf Coast braced for thunderstorms, high winds and the possibility of tornadoes.

Winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck in the area of Houston, Texas, killing the driver.

The Harris County Sheriff's office said a 25-year-old man has died after strong storms that moved through the Houston area on Christmas Day knocked a tree onto his Ford F-150 pickup truck.

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A truly white Christmas: Ella Sharp Park in Michigan was covered in a picturesque blanket of snow on Christmas Eve

A truly white Christmas: Ella Sharp Park in Michigan was covered in a picturesque blanket of snow on Christmas Eve

Areas expected to be covered: The midwest is going to be one of the hardest hit areas

Areas expected to be covered: The midwest is going to be one of the hardest hit areas

Deputy Thomas Gilliland says the incident occurred at about 9.40am local time in northwest Harris County.

According to official, the victim,
whose identity has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene
by emergency responders.

Meanwhile, icy roads already were
blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma, where authorities warned
would-be travelers to stay home.

Fog blanketed highways, including arteries in the Atlanta area where motorists slowed as a precaution.

A blizzard watch was posted for parts
of Indiana and western Kentucky for storms expected to unfold Tuesday
amid predictions of up to 4 to 7 inches of snow in coming hours.

Much of Oklahoma and Arkansas braced
under a winter storm warning of an early mix of rain and sleet forecast
to eventually turn to snow.

Some mountainous areas of Arkansas'
Ozark Mountains could get up to 10 inches of snow amid warnings travel
could become 'very hazardous or impossible' in the northern tier of the
state from near whiteout conditions, the National Weather Service said.

Early Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said some bridges and overpasses were already becoming slick.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol cited freezing rain as the likely cause of the crash that took place at around 2.50am on Tuesday.

Danger on the roads: Freezing rain and low visibility caused a 21 car pileup on an Oklahoma interstate

Danger on the roads: Freezing rain and low visibility caused a 21 car pileup on an Oklahoma interstate

Miraculous: 12 people were transported to local hospitals with injuries but none critical

Miraculous: 12 people were transported to local hospitals with injuries but none critical

At
least a dozen people were transported to local hospitals and treated
for unspecified injuries, but authorities said that none of those were
critical.

The crash took place on the Westbound
side of Interstate 40 by the intersection of Interstate 35 and the
roadway was closed for more than five hours while the cars were removed
from the scene.

The highway reopened at around 8.15am as more people hit the road in time for Christmas travel.

Kathleen O'Shea with Oklahoma Gas and
Electric said the utility was tracking the storm system to see where
repair crews might be needed among nearly 800,000 customers in Oklahoma
and western Arkansas.

Elsewhere, areas of east Texas and
Louisiana braced for possible thunderstorms as forecasters eyed a swath
of the Gulf Coast from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle for the
threat of any tornadoes.

Storms expected during the day Tuesday
along the Gulf Coast could bring strong tornadoes or winds of more than
75 mph, heavy rain, quarter-sized hail and dangerous lightning in
Louisiana and Mississippi, the weather service said.

Trying to get out: Kimberlee Taylor in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was met with a snow storm early as it hit her city on December 20 and their area remained on high alert for the rest of the holidays

Trying to get out: Kimberlee Taylor in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was met with a snow storm early as it hit her city on December 20 and their area remained on high alert for the rest of the holidays

Waiting game: Holiday travelers wait to check in for their flights

Waiting game: Holiday travelers wait to check in for their flights

Timeline of a storm: The latest weather map from Accuweather.com shows the approximate times the Great Plains and the Northeast are due to be hit with Christmas snowfall

Timeline of a storm: The latest weather map from Accuweather.com shows the approximate times the Great Plains and the Northeast are due to be hit with Christmas snowfall

'Please plan now for how you will
receive a severe weather warning, and know where you will go when it is
issued. It only takes a few minutes, and it will help everyone have a
safe Christmas,' Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said.

Ten storm systems in the last 50 years
have spawned at least one Christmastime tornado with winds of 113 mph
or more in the South, said Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service
spokesman in Washington.

Sign of the times: A Season's Greetings banner stayed strong as snow covered Beaver Dam, Wisconsin on December 20, prompting Governor Scott Walker to declare a state of emergency

Sign of the times: A Season's Greetings banner stayed strong as snow covered Beaver Dam, Wisconsin on December 20, prompting Governor Scott Walker to declare a state of emergency

Making the most out of it: Skiers in Crested Butte, Colorado were thrilled when they received 32 inches of fresh snow in the days leading up to Christmas

Making the most out of it: Skiers in Crested Butte, Colorado were thrilled when they received 32 inches of fresh snow in the days leading up to Christmas

The most lethal were the storms of
December 24-26, 1982, when 29 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas,
Tennessee and Mississippi killed three people and injured 32; and those
of December 24-25, 1964, when two people were killed and about 30
people injured by 14 tornadoes in seven states.

In Alabama, the director of the
Emergency Management Agency, Art Faulkner, said he has briefed both
local officials and Governor Robert Bentley on plans for dealing with a
possible outbreak of storms.

Whiteout: In Madison, Wisconsin, the road became nearly impassable on Thursday as flurries dramatically reduced visibility

Whiteout: In Madison, Wisconsin, the road became nearly impassable on Thursday as flurries dramatically reduced visibility

Keep dreaming: Up to 152million Americans could wake up to snow on Christmas Day, according to an AccuWeather forecast

Keep dreaming: Up to 152million Americans could wake up to snow on Christmas Day, according to an AccuWeather forecast

Heavy: Up to six inches are predicted for Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of Missouri

Heavy: Up to six inches are predicted for Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of Missouri during Christmas

Cancelled: Travelers line up for ticketing at O'Hare airport in Chicago on Friday

Cancelled: Thousands of flights were delayed as 87million Americans traveled for Christmas

No day is good for severe weather, but
Faulkner said Christmas adds extra challenges because people are
visiting unfamiliar areas and often thinking more of snow than possible
twisters.

'We are trying to get the word out
through our media partners and through social media that people need to
be prepared,' Faulkner said.

Mayor Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda, New
York, just north of Buffalo, said of judging the city's holiday lighting
contest in the past week: 'There was something missing. I think this was the first year there was no snow, not even a dusting.'

'Everyone thinks of us as a place
where snow is, and you relish it at Christmas time,' he said, adding,
'When we have snow around St. Patrick's Day, that's when people get
annoyed.'

On the road: The winter weather could have an impact on travel as millions of Americans get into their cars for Christmas trips

On the road: The winter weather could have an impact on travel as millions of Americans get into their cars for Christmas trips

Snarled: Between Unday and Monday, the winter storm dubbed 'Draco' had delayed 7,367 flights in the United States and canceled 317, leaving desperate holiday travelers scrambling to find alternative routes

Snarled: Between Unday and Monday, the winter storm dubbed 'Draco' had delayed 7,367 flights in the United States and canceled 317, leaving desperate holiday travelers scrambling to find alternative routes

During the night, flog blanketed
highways at times in the Southeast, including arteries in Atlanta where
motorists slowed as a precaution. Fog advisories were posted from
Alabama through the Carolinas into southwestern Virginia.

Several communities in Louisiana went
ahead with the annual Christmas Eve lighting more than 100 towering log
teepees for annual bonfires to welcome Pere Noel along the Mississippi
River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

That decision came after fire chiefs
and local officials decided to go ahead with the tradition after an
afternoon conference call with the National Weather Service.

In California, after a brief reprieve
across the northern half of the state on Monday, wet weather was
expected to make another appearance on Christmas Day. Flooding and
snarled holiday traffic were expected in Southern California.

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