Snow, rain soak eastern United States in post-Christmas storms

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:45am EST

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Dec 26 (Reuters) - The severe winter weather that hit parts of the central and southern United States on Christmas Day moved eastward on Wednesday, with forecasters predicting heavy snow in the Ohio Valley and possible tornadoes in the coastal Carolinas.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard and winter storm warnings in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, as well as much of the Northeast, and warned motorists of "treacherous" driving conditions in those areas.

At airports across the Northeast, holiday travelers braced for flight delays. Some flights headed for Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were experiencing delays of more than an hour on Wednesday because of the inclement weather.

The NWS said more than six inches of snow might fall in those regions, while the area from western New York up into central Maine could get from 12 to 18 inches.

As of Wednesday morning, Bloomington, Indiana, already had nearly a foot of snow and Indianapolis had about seven inches, according to AccuWeather.com.

Severe thunderstorms and widespread rain were expected from southeast Virginia to Florida, with the eastern counties in North Carolina and South Carolina under a tornado watch, the NWS said.

The wet and snowy conditions follow a major winter storm system that swept through the southern United States on Tuesday, spawning tornadoes in several states and causing the death of two people in weather-related road accidents.

Twisters struck in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, flattening houses and causing injuries, according to the weather service.

Declaring a state of emergency, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant deployed resources to the multiple counties in that state that reported damaged homes and businesses, power outages and flooding.

Tuesday's storms also contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut Interstate 40 in downtown Oklahoma City and caused power outages for tens of thousands of residents.

A Texas man died after an accident involving a toppled tree in the road, and there was another weather-related fatality on I-44 in Oklahoma, according to local authorities.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Gunna Dickson)

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