Severe storms kill six in Southern U.S., snarl holiday traffic

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Dangerous Storm Alert Across U.S.

(Reuters) - Severe storms unleashing tornadoes, heavy rain and hail across the southern and central United States left at least six people dead and dozens injured while snarling traffic as holiday travel began in earnest for the Christmas holiday weekend.

SEE ALSO: Colo. suspect makes a bizarre request at hearing

The stormy weather scrambled winter getaway plans in Florida even as dreams of a white Christmas melted in northeastern swaths of the country where unseasonably warm temperatures prevailed.

A large tornado raked a 100-mile stretch of northern Mississippi in the late afternoon, demolishing or heavily damaging dozens of homes and other buildings in a six-county area before plowing into Tennessee, authorities said.

16 PHOTOS
Mississippi Tornado, storm
See Gallery
Severe storms kill six in Southern U.S., snarl holiday traffic

A car port of Delbert and Sharon Craft is damaged from a tornado that swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Scattered debris lies on the side on Hwy 49 after a tornado swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Scattered debris lies on the side on Hwy 49 after a tornado swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Delbert Craft walks past his car port, damaged from a tornado that swept through Seminary, Mississippi on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

Bush Morris Sr. of Hattiesburg helps clean up scattered debris from a tornado that went through Seminary, Miss., on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Early morning storms caused damage in parts of the Pine Belt Monday. A radar-confirmed tornado moved through Seminary around 6:15 a.m. (Susan Broadbridge/The Hattiesburg American via AP)

A fallen tree rests atop a pickup truck in Holly Springs, Miss., after a storm struck the town on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. A storm system killed several people as it swept across the South, and officials are searching for missing people into the night. (AP Photo/Phillip Lucas)
7yo boy among 3 dead in Mississippi following tornado, severe storm https://t.co/x0kn79g9gD https://t.co/v8RDRqthOF
Dangerous tornado is moving across northwest Mississippi, National Weather Service says. https://t.co/50EOBJf4XU https://t.co/PiqtTIOSCv
That long track tornado that began south of Clarksdale is still on the ground near Como, Mississippi. Goodness. https://t.co/FOSV8B9O9K
Major tornado damage crossed I-55 north of Sardis MS in search rescue mode. mswx @NWSMemphis https://t.co/cWQGm9nEIK
Live look at the #tornado down in #Clarksdale courtesy of the Live Storm Chasing app. Heading towards Marks. https://t.co/rIaZf8fMMm
WOW! Large tornado seen this Wednesday afternoon near Bobo, Mississippi. Photo via J&F McKinney. #Tornado #MSwx https://t.co/aiwQJlTzUb
Large #tornado near Marks, Mississippi. Wow! Via Minuteman Disaster. https://t.co/8ANU8RX9Mh
This home in Panola County Mississippi experienced a partial collapse #Tornado https://t.co/dDC8Rz1omP
I've seen a lot of shit in my backyard before. New one https://t.co/QI3MTATZF9
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Three people were confirmed dead from the storms in Mississippi, including a 7-year-old boy, two more in Tennessee and one in Arkansas, according to emergency management and law enforcement officials in the region.

Among the storm-related fatalities in Mississippi were a man and a woman, both in their 60s, who were killed separately when a tornado destroyed their homes in Benton County, Mississippi, said state Highway Patrol Sergeant Ray Hall.

A few more people remained unaccounted for as search teams combed through debris after dark, he said.

Gregg Flynn, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, reported more than 40 injuries in the six hardest-hit counties.

In Tennessee, clobbered by multiple twisters, state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener confirmed two storm-related fatalities in Perry County - one male and one female of undetermined age.

"It got to middle Tennessee and went 'Ka-pow'," Flener said of the storm system.

An 18-year-old Arkansas woman died and a toddler was injured when a tree crashed into her house after being uprooted by powerful winds during a storm, according to emergency officials there.

States from Louisiana to Illinois were under a tornado watch on Wednesday. Possible tornado damage was also reported near Indianapolis, Indiana.

More than 100 million Americans were expected to travel during the holiday period beginning Wednesday - 91 million of them by car, according to the American Automobile Association.

In the Northeast, where warmer weather spared drivers the crippling delays wrought by winter storms, traffic was heavy, with more rain expected until Thursday in and around New York.

In New Jersey alone, more than 2 million vehicles had been expected to hit the roads on Wednesday.

In California, 11 million people were planning to travel by car between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, and another one million were planning to fly to their destinations.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said it received reports of hail as large as golf balls falling in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Weather Service meteorologist Greg Carbin said travelers in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Ohio were likely to experience some weather-related delays on Wednesday evening.

Travel in Minnesota was also briefly disrupted when Black Lives Matter activists protesting against a spate of police killings of unarmed black people nationwide, shut down roadways to both terminals at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, an airport spokesman said.

Protesters in California blocked traffic near San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday as part of the same "Black Xmas" protest.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Therese Apel in Jackson, Miss., Tim Ghianni in Memphis, Tenn., and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Additional reporting and writing by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Grant McCool, Robert Birsel)

More on AOL.com
Family hopes new discovery leads to man missing 25 years
Black Lives Matter to protest at Mall of America again despite warning
Grand jury indicts truck driver in Tracy Morgan crash

Read Full Story

People are Reading