Christmas weather deadly in South

190,000 customers without power after powerful storms

NEW ORLEANS | December 26, 2012

- Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida Wednesday braced for a series of powerful storms that raked points West, leaving at least three dead.

The National Weather Service said Christmas Day storms produced dangerous winds and tornadoes and left more than 190,000 customers without power.

CNN said weather-related deaths occurred in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

A man driving in Houston died when a tree fell on his pickup, Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland said. In Woodward, Okla., a woman died in an accident on a snow-covered, two-lane highway. In Louisiana, a man died when a tree fell on his home.

Blizzard and winter storm warnings were in effect from the Deep South to New England and as much as 15 inches of snow was predicted for parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania to northern Maine and Canada. said flash floods were possible as the storm moves northeast to the central and southern Appalachians before heading into the Carolinas and Maryland, then out to sea.

Strong winds, predicted to hit 60 mph, were expected to whip the East Coast from Long Island, N.Y., to Boston.

David Saraceno told CNN he was driving on Interstate 165 in Mobile County, Ala., when he spotted a tornado about 2 miles away.

"I put the pedal to the floor to try to get out of harm's way but it seemed to be getting closer and closer," said Saraceno, who left the highway near Chickasaw and reversed direction to get out of the way.

"It appeared that the tornado turned and came over the interstate about three minutes away from where we would have been if I did not get off the interstate. We saw a roof that must have blown off a house. Cars were pulled to the side of the road. There was a lady whose windows were shattered. It was too close for comfort."

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported a possible tornado damaged 25-30 homes, resulting in numerous injuries, in Ball, La. Police said another twister touched down in Zachary, La., but didn't cause extensive damage, the newspaper said.

The Times-Picayune said the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was closed for a time because of hail and low visibility.

Police said a tornado apparently touched down near downtown Alexandria, La., injuring one person and damaging more than a dozen buildings, CNN said.

The National Weather Service said a tornado struck Mobile, Ala. Murphy High School history teacher Rick Cauley said he and his family rode out the storm in the school's field house. The twister destroyed an equipment barn and six mobile classrooms and damaged the roof of the school auditorium and band room.

"It was pretty horrific," Cauley said.

A spokesman for Mobile Fire-Rescue, Steve Hicks, said several other buildings, including a church, and the storm caused several traffic accidents.

Alabama's Choctaw and Clarke counties also reported damage and one person in Prichard was injured, CNN said.

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