Unseasonable weather coupled with rare “spring” storms seem to have derailed Christmas celebrations in a big way in major parts of the southeast, bringing heavy snow and hampering holiday travel for millions of people in the area.
The National Weather Service declared a “particularly dangerous situation” for a wide area spanning eastern Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, northeast Louisiana, and western Tennessee — the first such warning for almost two years — before adding that severe thunderstorms were likely through the night across large parts of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and the central Gulf Coast states, according to NBC News.
At least seven people were reported to have been killed as a result of the rare spring-like storms, and meteorologists expect the weather to deteriorate further as the week progresses.
In Mississippi, a 7-year-old boy was killed in a van when a severe spring storm tore through the town of Holly Springs Wednesday evening. Several others were injured as severe twisters damaged more than 20 homes in the state.
The untimely weather — more reminiscent of June than December — means Christmas could be a low-key affair for some residents in the southeast.
Authorities have issued a warning to the residents in Indiana, advising them not to bother putting up inflatable decorations because outdoor Christmas decorations could turn into dangerous missiles. In several parts of Ohio, several Christmas functions — including an appearance by Santa Claus — were canceled due to the stormy weather.
Authorities in Nashville, Tennessee, asked businesses to send their employees home early. Mayor Megan Barry appealed to the residents to remain conscious of the weather when deciding to travel during the holidays, according to MSNBC (via Big News Network).
“My first priority is that our citizens are safe. We have the best chance of making sure that happens if we manage the combination of severe weather and holiday travel by getting people off the roads and into their homes as quickly as possible.”
But the worst might be yet to come.
“We’re really concerned about the additional storms yet to come,” said Danielle Banks, a meteorologist for the Weather Channel.
Flash floods are expected in major parts of the southeast, meaning authorities are set for a torrid time, as more than 100 million people expected to travel around the country during the holiday season.
“We are seeing more than 100 million people will be traveling overall,” said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA. “That’s the first time we’ve ever hit that record.”
While most of those people are expected to travel by cars, the spring storms also seem to have taken a major toll on flight operations, with more than 275 flights being canceled and a further 1200 expected to be delayed on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, people in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee could see hail the size of tennis balls approaching them in the next couple of days. More than 900 people were left without power across Arkansas Wednesday night, and the number of people affected from the stormy spring weather may increase as the New Year approaches.
But as dangerous as the weather might be, it has failed to dampen the spirit of Christmas travelers and shoppers, who are braving tornadoes, heavy snow, and spring storms to reach their loved ones for Christmas.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]