County braces for severe weather on Christmas Day

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pike County residents should brace for severe weather today and tonight.

Jeanna Barnes, Pike County EMA director, said the county lies on the forward edge of the National Weather Service zone for most severe weather. (see details here). “And that’s a little too close for comfort,” she said.

Barnes spent Christmas Day watching the radar and in weather service briefings. “I just finished another briefing,” she said shortly after 3 p.m. “It looks like we’ll be getting some severe stuff as early as 5 p.m., with the threat lasting well into the overnight hours,” she said. “The worst will likely come after dark.”

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The storm system was described as a potentially dangerous situation by forecasters on Wednesday, prompting Barnes to issue strong warnings to Pike County residents. “Again, most of this is likely to happen overnight, so people need to be alert and pay attention to alert systems.”

Barnes said residents can monitor the Pike County EMA Facebook page  or sign up for Alabama Saf-T-Net, a free web-based service that provides weather alerts.

By 3 p.m., Christmas Day the thunderstorms already were blamed for at least one death.

Winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck in the Houston area, killing the driver. Icy roads already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma, where authorities warned would-be travelers to stay home.

Trees fell on a few houses in central Louisiana’s Rapides Parish but there were no injuries reported so far and crews were cutting trees out of roadways to get to people in their homes, said sheriff’s Lt. Tommy Carnline.

Fog blanketed highways, including arteries in the Atlanta area where motorists slowed as a precaution.

In New Mexico, drivers across the eastern plains had to fight through snow, ice and low visibility.

At least three tornadoes were reported in Texas, though only one building was damaged, according to the National Weather Service. Tornado watches were in effect across southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

More than 180 flights nationwide were canceled by midday, according to the flight tracker .

Storms along the Gulf Coast could were expected to bring winds up to 70 mph, heavy rain, more large hail and dangerous lightning.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.