Post-Holiday Storm Unleashed Tornadoes, Blizzard and Caused at Least 6 Deaths
GWEN IFILL: That major winter storm surged into the Midwest and Northeast, fouling flight schedules and ruining road conditions on this day after Christmas. The huge weather system left a trail of destruction in the Gulf Coast region and at least six people dead.
WOMAN: Oh, wow. Oh, Jesus, look at that tornado.
GWEN IFILL: The calm of Christmas night was shattered by tornadoes dropping from the sky across much of the Deep South. This one hit near downtown Mobile, Ala., ripping apart a church, a high school and a number of homes.
At least 34 twisters struck in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, tearing walls from homes and tossing cars onto one another. By this morning, heaps of debris dotted the Gulf region.
SAM MOORE, resident of Texas: This use to be a huge feed store and metal, I'm talking. But it wasn't a weak, weak building at all. It was a well-built building. And it just -- you see what it did to it. It's amazing.
GWEN IFILL: The same system that spawned the tornadoes dropped record snow on Arkansas and Texas, turning Christmas lights into icicles and forcing would-be travelers to think twice.
KIM TALLY, resident of Arkansas: My mom and dad live in El Paso, and I was planning on going to El Paso, but I think I will be staying home now.
GWEN IFILL: In Oklahoma, the icy conditions led to this 21-car pile-up last night. From there, the huge storm front lumbered on, bringing blizzard warnings in Indiana and Ohio.
To the Northeast, more than a foot of snow was expected from New York state to Maine. By last night, it was already on the way.
MAN: The winds were fierce. It was blowing the cars around, and you could see that even the semis were swerving.
GWEN IFILL: The storm also forced hundreds of flights to be canceled, and the ripple effects reached as far west as San Francisco.
RYAN DAMSTRA, resident of California: After I found out my flight had been canceled after four hours of waiting in the airport, I had to wait in another three-hour customer service line, which I didn't even get to the end of before the booth closed.
GWEN IFILL: About 1,000 people spent Christmas night on cots at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. By dawn, patience was wearing thin.
One fed-up pilot apologized to his passengers over the loudspeaker, after they were forced to wait on the tarmac for almost five hours.
PILOT: It's beyond reproach. I have no words to tell you that -- that -- how sorry I am for all of this. This is way, way above our heads by people that obviously, in my humble opinion, don't have a clue what they're doing.
GWEN IFILL: By this evening, the worst of the weather was moving into New England. But in its wake, nearly 200,000 customers had lost power across the Southeast and Midwest, making home for the holidays unexpectedly cold and dark.