Storms packing strong winds and heavy rain have slammed the US midsection and officials worried about Christmas yard decorations becoming projectiles. Tornadoes yesterday touched down in Mississippi and Indiana, the National Weather Service said.
The springlike storms damaged buildings and knocked down trees, and thousands of people were without power in Indiana and Arkansas. A tree blew over onto a house in Arkansas, killing an 18yearold woman and trapping her 1 yearold child inside, authorities said.
Rescuers pulled the toddler safely from the home. A tornado touched down in northwest Mississippi, said Jim Belles, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We’re tracking a very large tornado,” Belles said. “We’re hearing reports of some damage in parts of Coahoma County and reports of injuries, but we can’t confirm any injuries.” Television images showed the tornado appeared to be on the ground for more than 10 minutes. Interstate 55 was closed in both directions as the tornado approached, the Mississippi Highway Patrol said.
After an EF1 tornado struck the south Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood, television stations showed pictures of damage including a portion of a roof blown off a veterinary office.
The biggest threat for tornadoes was in a region of 3.7 million people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas and parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, according to the national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma.
Twisters were possible from midday yesterday through the evening. Elsewhere, the Northeast enjoyed springlike temperatures as people rushed to finish lastminute shopping. In a reversal of a typical Christmas, forecasters expected New York to be about 18 degrees Celsius on Christmas Eve about the same temperatures as Los Angeles. Only about half of the US should expect the possibility of a white Christmas.
“I try not to think about it too much because it’s very bizarre and it’s unusual for this time of year for it to be so warm and for such a long time,” said Marla Wojacksyk, 48, who was taking her excited 4yearold daughter to see Santa Claus at Macy’s department store in Manhattan.
“But I have a little girl and she’s enjoying the Christmas spirit,” Wojacczyk added, as her daughter Zoe jumped up and down with glee, pulling her mother toward the store’s entrance. In Alabama, heavy rains overnight left some downtown Mobile streets flooded during the morning rush hour.