Storm Pummels Nation's Midsection As It Heads East
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Bad winter weather is making life difficult for hundreds of thousands of holiday travelers. Yesterday and today, much of the middle and eastern half of the U.S. was hit with blizzard-like conditions. As NPR's Pam Fessler reports, the storm's next stop is New England.
PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: The band of nasty weather has been working its way up from the South, where on Christmas Day residents of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama got a rare and destructive surprise.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Look at that. There goes a huge transformer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This is right here in the city of Mobile, folks, going through...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Look at that.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: ...the midtown area. This is a tornado, a wedge tornado on the ground.
FESSLER: Almost three dozen tornadoes were reported, including this one in Mobile, Alabama, tracked live on a local Fox newscast. The twisters damaged some homes, schools and churches, and led to power outages along the Gulf Coast. No tornado-related deaths or serious injuries were reported, but icy roads and snow made traveling treacherous in other areas: in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas up to Indiana and into Ohio. Car accidents were blamed for at least a half dozen deaths, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Elizabeth Gates found herself stranded this morning at Indianapolis International Airport. She was trying to get home to Washington, D.C., after visiting her family.
DR. ELIZABETH GATES: The flight on United was canceled. They booked me on another flight on United, which is also canceled. So I was rebooked the third time onto a U.S. Air flight that was supposed to take off before the storm hit this morning, but that flight was then delayed. And now, it's being delayed again by the weather.
FESSLER: Gates says by late morning, the ground outside the terminal was covered with about eight inches of snow, and it was still coming down. She's a doctor who wants to get home to see her patients tomorrow. Those who don't need to travel are being advised to stay put. First Sergeant Kevin Lewis with the Maryland State Police says it's dangerous out there.
FIRST SERGEANT KEVIN LEWIS: Getting in the car to drive, to go a shopping is probably not worth the risk to your safety and damage to your car or someone else's. The roads are in pretty bad shape right now.
FESSLER: Lewis says a mixture of snow and sleet began falling this morning in Western Maryland. And it didn't take long before cars began sliding off the roads. Heather Hunter is a spokeswoman for AAA, who suggests that if you're on the road and you do run into bad weather...
HEATHER HUNTER: Be prepared to stop for the night. There's many free travel apps available if you need to make alternate directions or find a hotel for the night.
FESSLER: And many travelers might be forced to do just that. AAA says almost 84 million people are traveling by car this holiday season. As the storm heads into New York and New England tonight and tomorrow, forecasters are predicting a foot or more of snow. Pam Fessler, NPR News.
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