It was a white Christmas in many parts of the U.S., and while the weather made the holidays pretty to look at it also caused plenty of holiday chaos. More than 10 inches of snow fell on parts of central and northern Arkansas, with the state capital Little Rock receiving 9 inches — breaking an 86-year-old snowfall record. Parts of southern Illinois and Indiana found themselves digging out from 7-inches of accumulation on Christmas Day.
But the worst weather hit parts of Alabama and Louisiana, where tornadoes slammed into Gulf Coast towns on Christmas Day. In Mobile, Ala., one twister touched down just before 5 p.m., and was captured live by local news station WALA.
(FULL REPORT: Deadly Storms Spread Snow, Tornadoes Across U.S.)
In the video, which looks southward from the top of a 17-story Holiday Inn, the tornado tears through downtown Mobile and causes power transformers to explode — leaving as many as 26,000 people without power.
No homes were destroyed, but major damage was reported. The tornado tore the roof off Trinity Episcopal Church which, just hours earlier, was filled with 500 congregants celebrating Christmas Eve mass. Mobile’s Murphy High School, built in the 1920s, suffered extreme roof damage as the tornado swept overhead. The auditorium lost about half of its roof, according to school administrators. (The district says it’s already started repairs on the school.)
David Saraceno and his wife Whitney caught a different view of the storm as they drove down I-165 in Mobile on Christmas Day. “It looked like it was about two miles away from us,” Saraceno told CNN. “I put the pedal to the floor to try and get out of harm’s way.” But, with his 1-year-old daughter in the car, he ended up turning off the highway and heading right back home.
Don Shepherd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told Alabama Live that Mobile hadn’t been hit by a strong tornado in decades. So it was an understandable shock to residents to see two in a single week – last Thursday, an EF-1 tornado hit the city, leaving 54,000 without power. No one was killed, but hundreds of homes were damaged as well.
The last time the Gulf Coast was hit by tornadoes at Christmas was in 2009, when 22 tornadoes descended on the area on Christmas Eve.
More than 200,000 people were reported without power across the Midwest on Christmas Day as storm cleanup began. Mississippi governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for eight Mississippi counties after severe storms moved through the state.
Winter Storm Euclid has since moved out of the middle of the nation, but doesn’t mean her rampage is over. The weather system is moving northeast, predicted to dump a foot of snow on Pennsylvania and New England on Wednesday night into Thursday.
(PHOTOS: Tornadoes Sweep Through Alabama in 2011)