Tornadoes rip central, southeast U.S., at least two dead
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Tornadoes ripped through four states on Tuesday night and Wednesday, killing at least two people, as an Arctic cold front clashed with warm air to produce severe weather over a wide swath of the nation.
Tornadoes were reported in Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, an unusual development in January when the focus is more likely to be on snow and ice.
The National Weather Service said twisters touched down in Sardis, Mississippi, and heavily damaged homes in Solsberry, Indiana, wiping out power in the surrounding areas. Three twisters were confirmed in Tennessee and a possible tornado hit southeastern Arkansas.
In Georgia, a man was killed when a tornado hit his mobile home late Wednesday morning, said Bartow County administrator Pete Olson.
In north Nashville, a man died when a tree fell on his garage apartment, according to Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
"We have trees down all over the place," said Brittney Coleman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.
The same storm system is moving eastward, bringing a risk of severe weather from the upper Ohio Valley south to the central Gulf Coast and east to the Mid-Atlantic and southeast coast, according to the National Weather Service. Damaging winds of up to 70 miles per hour (113 km/h), hail and more tornadoes are possible.
Behind the severe weather, the Arctic front brought snowfall to the central Plains, where many schools were closed and driving was hazardous across eastern Nebraska.
Wisconsin was getting snow Wednesday afternoon, with up to 6 inches in Madison, according to Accuweather.com. Temperatures were expected to plunge below freezing in Chicago, after hitting a record on Tuesday of 63 degrees (about 17 degrees Celsius).
In Tennessee, which declared a state of emergency, buildings and homes were damaged by the storm that cut a 4.6 mile-long path that was 150 yards wide through the center of Mt. Juliet, about 20 miles east of Nashville.
In Indiana, about 11,900 customers in center of the state were without electricity because of the storm, utilities said.
Piles of debris and downed power lines blocked roadways in Indiana, including State Road 45 in southwestern Monroe County and State Road 43, which was closed from Solsberry to Hendricksville.
In north Georgia, a portion of Interstate 75 was closed in both directions near exit 306 due to storm damage, said Jill Goldberg, spokeswoman for the state's department of transportation.
Power outages and damaged homes were reported in at least 10 counties in Mississippi, mostly in the northern part of the state.
In Arkansas, there were numerous reports of roof damage, downed trees and power lines, and destroyed barns. A tornado may have hit Monticello, in the southeastern part of the state, authorities said.
At the University of Arkansas at Monticello, a horse barn was blown off its foundation across a parking area, damaging livestock trailers, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Several fires were started from lightning strikes.
The storms Wednesday will drive down the morning's warmer temperatures with chillier air following in their wake, said meteorologist Dan Depodwin on Accuweather.com.
(Reporting by Susan Guyett in Indiana, Tim Ghianni in Tennessee, Suzi Parker in Arkansas, David Beasley in Atlanta, Emily Le Coz in Mississippi; Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, David Gregorio and Nick Zieminski)