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Snow ... tornadoes and thunderstorms? This is Christmas Eve?

Severe thunderstorm systems complicate holiday travel plans for many in the South and Northeast, while a winter storm brings Christmas snow to the Midwest and Rockies.

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    Traffic is blocked on US 98 East near Columbia, Miss., after a tornado touched down around 2:30 p.m., Tuesday. Gov. Phil Bryant declared an emergency for two southeastern counties where officials say four people died in the storms and several more were injured.
    Eli Baylis/The Hattiesburg American/AP
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Wednesday is shaping up to be a rather soggy Christmas Eve for much of the US East Coast as severe thunderstorms sweep through the South and a separate rainstorm gathers steam in the Northeast.

Severe thunderstorms swept through the South Tuesday. The town of Columbia, Miss., was hit particularly hard. A tornado swept through the town of 6,500 Tuesday afternoon, upending cars, toppling power lines, and ripping the roof off of at least one home. Thousands remain without power Wednesday.

“The whole town of Columbia is without power,” Millie Swann, a spokeswoman for Marion General Hospital told the Associated Press. “The hospital is running on generator [power], but was able to treat people in the ER unless they needed a higher level of care.”

Mississippi emergency crews are spending Christmas Eve checking on residents and beginning to clean up the damage.

“We’ve had reports of trees and power lines down, heavy rain,” Marda Tullos, Jones County Emergency Management director told The Clarion-Ledger early Wednesday morning. “We’ve had reports of some trees on mobile houses with one entrapment, and responders are going out right now to check on the people.

In Alabama, the storms knocked down trees and power lines and flooded several roads Tuesday. Flash flood warnings remain in effect for the southeastern parts of the state Wednesday.

Much of Georgia is under flood watch Wednesday and several counties are on tornado alert, as the storm makes its way toward the Florida panhandle. At least one tornado touched down Tuesday in Amite, La., destroying homes and displacing at least a dozen families.

In Florida, six inches of rain have already fallen and more is expected. State officials are strongly discouraging travel.

Severe winds are likely to complicate air travel in the Ohio River Valley. Low hanging clouds hovering just 600 feet above the ground have caused dozens of flight delays in Philadelphia.

In the Northeast, a storm bearing heavy rain, fog, thunderstorms, and a band of snow threatens to mire Christmas Eve travel from northern Virginia up through the southern Great Lakes and New England. Flood watches are in effect for much of East Coast from Washington through southern Maine.

While East Coasters slog their way to grandma’s house through unrelenting rains, many in the Midwest and Rockies could see a white Christmas, thanks to a Pacific storm system.

“For those without travel plans, children and the young at heart, the benefit of the storms from the Great Lakes to the Rockies will be to produce a blanket of snow just in time for Christmas,” writes Accuweather senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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