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.
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.
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.