Christmastime storms, tornadoes kill at least 43 in US

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Texas Tornado Raises Storm Death Toll

DALLAS, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Storms hit the U.S. South, Southwest and Midwest over the Christmas holiday weekend, unleashing floods and tornadoes that killed at least 43 people, flattened buildings and snarled transportation for millions during a busy travel time.

The bad weather or threat of it prompted the governors of Missouri and New Mexico to declare a state of emergency for their states.

Flash floods killed at least 13 people in Missouri and Illinois.

In Missouri, emergency workers have evacuated residents from their homes and conducted dozens of water rescues, Governor Jay Nixon said on Sunday. He said at least eight people had been killed and numerous roadways had been closed.

SEE ALSO: US storm deaths reach 22 as new tornadoes hit Texas

Nixon declared a state of emergency, saying continued rains would make already widespread flooding conditions worse.

Three adults and two children were in a car near the village of Patoka, Illinois, 85 miles (137 km) east of St. Louis, Missouri, when their vehicle was washed away by floodwaters on Saturday night, according to Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon.

In Texas, at least 11 people were killed in the Dallas area over the weekend by tornadoes, including one packing winds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 km per hour). The twister hit the city of Garland, killing eight people and blowing vehicles off highways.

"It is total devastation," Garland Police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau said. "It is a very difficult time to be struck by such a horrible storm the day after Christmas."

Three other deaths were reported in the Dallas metropolitan area, the United States' fourth most populous with about 7 million residents. Scores of people were injured in the region and more than 100 homes were damaged or destroyed, officials said.

"A tornado of that strength is very rare in a metropolitan area," National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop said in a telephone interview.

See photos of the severe weather in Texas:

17 PHOTOS
Tornadoes and storms wreak havoc on Texas, severe weather
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Christmastime storms, tornadoes kill at least 43 in US
An emergency vehicle drives through a neighborhood in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, the morning after it was struck by a tornado. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
Michael Downard stands outside his house in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, the morning after it was struck by a tornado. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
Damage of a house is seen after Saturday's tornado spread out in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/David Warren)
Delores Downard salvages items from her son's house in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, the morning after it was struck by a tornado. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
Damage of vehicles and houses are seen after Saturday's tornado spread out in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/David Warren)
Bob Moore walks through his home in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, the morning after it was struck by a tornado. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
Twisted guard rails sit on the side of the road after night tornado in Garland, Texas on December 27, 2015. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said Sunday, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A heavily damaged residence is seen December 27, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Christmas tree lays in the wreckage of a family's home December 27, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A heavily damaged residence is seen December 27, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Barnes Bridge road is closed after night tornado in Garland, Texas on December 27, 2015. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said Sunday, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
An American flag placed by first responders is seen December 27, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A heavily damaged area is seen December 27, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. The rare December twisters that flattened houses and caused chaos on highways raised the death toll from days of deadly weather across the South to at least 28. AFP PHOTO/LAURA BUCKMAN / AFP / LAURA BUCKMAN (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man runs as sirens sound during a severe storm over downtown Dallas, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Dallas. The National Weather Service said the Dallas area was under a tornado warning Saturday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Women walk as rain falls in downtown Dallas and weather sirens sounds Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. The National Weather Service said the Dallas area was under a tornado warning Saturday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
People run as weather sirens sound as a severe storm passes over downtown Dallas, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Dallas. The National Weather Service said the Dallas area was under a tornado warning Saturday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A Miami dance team member catches snowflakes during the third quarter of the Sun Bowl NCAA college football game between Miami and Washington State on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in El Paso, Texas. A snowstorm accompanied by plunging temperatures was expected to leave up to 16 inches of snow in West Texas and much of New Mexico through Sunday evening, according to NWS meteorologist Brendon Rubin-Oster in College Park, Maryland. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)
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Powerful tornadoes are a staple of spring and summer in central states but occur less frequently in winter, according to U.S. weather data

Three tornadoes were reported in Arkansas on Sunday, the weather service said, but there were no initial reports of significant injuries or damage. The service has issued tornado watches and warnings for areas in that state, as well as in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

A tornado watch means a storm is likely, while a warning means a storm or storms have been sighted.

The storms came on the heels of tornadoes that hit two days before Christmas, killing at least 18 people, including 10 in Mississippi.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said his office had declared Dallas County and three nearby counties disaster areas. He also warned people to be wary of snow in western parts of the state and rivers spilling their banks in other places.

The National Weather Service has issued severe weather advisories for large parts of the central United States, including a blizzard warning for parts of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and a flash flood watch stretching from Texas to Indiana.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency for the entire state due to a winter storm expected to dump up to 2 feet of snow in eastern parts of the state.

The bad weather forced the cancellation of more than 1,100 flights in the nation on Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.com. About half of the canceled flights were in Dallas, a major U.S. flight hub.

See images from the tornado destruction in Alabama:

22 PHOTOS
Tornado touches down in Alabama, recent severe weather
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Christmastime storms, tornadoes kill at least 43 in US
Tanager Tyler and son Mitchell look over a vehicle, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, that wound up in the culvert of their driveway after floodwaters swept it and its four occupants off the road during the previous night, in Pinson, Ala. The occupants had to be rescued by the fire department. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Andrea Simpson wades through water as she goes back to her house in Courtland, Ala., after checking if the barn was safe for her horses to spend the night in Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. The barn turned out to be flooded, too. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
Elba and state officials discuss their next step as they gather at the highway 84 bridge, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. The river crested today and began to recede before flooding the downtown area. Officials said more than 100 houses and businesses were flooded by the rising waters. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
A Merry Christmas sign is mostly submerged by flood waters from the Pea River, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. The river crested today and began to recede before flooding the downtown area. Officials said more than 100 houses and businesses were flooded by the rising waters. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Residents watch flooding from the Pea river, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. The river crested today and began to recede before flooding the downtown area. Officials said more than 100 houses and businesses were flooded by the rising waters. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Danny Allen leaves his house and crosses Academy Street in Courtland, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
A building is submerged by the Pea river as people wait to cross in to downtown on highway 84 bridge, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. The river crested today and began to recede before flooding the downtown area. Officials said more than 100 houses and businesses were flooded by the rising waters. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Elba and state officials discuss their next step as they gather on highway 84 bridge, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. The river crested today and began to recede before flooding the downtown area. Officials said more than 100 house and businesses were flooded by the rising waters. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Water surrounds construction equipment in a yard on Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Madison County, Ala. Unseasonably warm weather helped spawn severe storms Friday after violent storms in the Southeast left dozens of families homeless by Christmas Eve. (Bob Gathany/AL.com via AP)
Two men watch as a friend tries to drive through flooded Smith avenue, Dec. 26, 2015 in Elba, Ala. He had to back out because the water was to high and strong. (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)
Wayne Horton points out some of his crops, now under water, as he steers his boat over his flooded orchard next to his house on Clinton Street in Courtland, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
In this images released by the Office of the Governor of Alabama, cattle move in flood waters as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley flies over Elba, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, Bentley declared a state of emergency Friday amid widespread flash flooding that follows several days of intense weather throughout the South. (Jamie Martin/Office of the Governor of Alabama via AP)
Lightning illuminates a house after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Birmingham firefighters work a scene after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Brooke Speegle waits to be rescued after her vehicle stalled in high water on Christmas Day in Decatur, Ala., Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. A storm pounded Tennessee and other states in the southeastern U.S. (John Godbey/The Decatur Daily via AP)
Gregory Shuford, left, and Terease Shuford keep an eye on flooding in west Montgomery, Ala., on Christmas morning Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. The line of severe storms continued marching eastward Thursday, dumping torrential rain that flooded roads in Alabama and caused a mudslide in the mountains of Georgia. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Emergency officials transport James Simmons by boat because water over Byler Road prevented them from reaching him in Moulton, Ala., Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. They carried him by boat before loading him into an ambulance. Unseasonably warm weather helped spawn severe storms Friday after violent storms in the Southeast left dozens of families homeless by Christmas Eve. (Deangelo McDaniel/The Decatur Daily via AP) 
Cars sit submerged in flood waters on Tallapoosa Street, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday as a tornado touched down in north-central Alabama, including part of Birmingham, the state's largest city. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Birmingham firefighters work a scene after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Birmingham firefighters work a scene after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Birmingham firefighters work a scene after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
A pedestrian heads towards his car in rain and high winds, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. A weather pattern that could be associated with El Nino has turned winter upside-down across the U.S. during a week of heavy holiday travel, bringing spring-like warmth to the Northeast, a risk of tornadoes in the South and so much snow in parts of the West that there are concerns about avalanches. On Christmas Day, it could be warmer in New York City than Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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