At least one tornado hits Dallas area

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At least four people were killed in Garland, Texas, during Saturday’s outbreak of storms, police spokesman Mike Hatfield tells CNN. Hatfield indicated the death toll was a preliminary figure.

Tornado sirens blared in Texas and Oklahoma on Saturday night as an ugly system of storms barreled through the region.

Dallas-area residents took cover as strong winds blasted the Metroplex, bringing at least one tornado.

Law enforcement officials and trained weather spotters reported a large tornado near DeSoto, just south of downtown Dallas, moving north at 40 mph, just after 6 p.m.

About an hour later, there was also a report of a tornado in eastern Ellis County, the next county to the south, the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service said.

Other parts of the state were dealing with other types of hard winds and precipitation, the weather service said.

An arctic cold front will swoop down to the Rio Grande area of west Texas, bringing a nasty mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain from there to New Mexico on Saturday and Sunday, forecasters predicted.

“By Sunday morning, the snow, sleet and freezing rain will expand northeast across the southern Plains,” the NWS said.

“Heavy snowfall amounts of 10 to 18 inches are forecast through Sunday evening across much of western/northwestern Texas, with 18 to 24 inches forecast across portions of New Mexico.”

Throw in some fierce winds, and parts of the Southwest could see blizzard conditions, the weather agency said. The blizzard conditions could affect people from New Mexico toward the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles, with 1.2 million under a blizzard warning.

In addition to snow, icy conditions are expected from central Oklahoma up into Kansas with ice accumulation and strong winds, making the roads dangerous for driving.

The weather service office in Norman, Oklahoma, reported a possible tornado in the southern town of Burneyville.

The Deep South

In southeastern Alabama, residents of Elba are anxiously waiting to see what will happen to the Pea River.

After a day of epic rainfall, the river reached 39.3 feet Friday night, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It could rise to 41 feet Saturday evening, Coffee County Emergency Management Director Larry Walker said.

The levee protecting the city is 44 feet tall.

Already, at least 117 homes have been significantly flooded in the county, Walker said. CNN affiliate WFSA said dozens of roads in the county have been shut down.

The city has dealt with massive flooding before. In 1990, Elba was nearly destroyed when the old levee around the town broke.

About three hours north in Birmingham, a possible tornado hit the city, officials said. Three homes collapsed, but only one person was injured.

The NWS corrected a precipitation report from Gadsden, Alabama, saying only 3.65 inches had fallen between 6 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday, not 20 inches as previously reported. The weather service cited a glitch with their observation equipment.

Parts of Mississippi are trying to clean up from the 10 inches of rain they got for Christmas. Many roads and homes are flooded, Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said.

“We’re just a mess here,” the sheriff said. “It’s a really serious situation. We’ve got all our deputies out. We’ve got all the fire departments out. I wasn’t expecting this.”

On Saturday, the sheriff says they will need a lot of patience from everyone to deal with the impact of the weather conditions on the roads and to keep people safe.

“Severe storms and heavy rain are possible in parts of the Gulf Coast region through the southern Plains to Ohio Valley on Saturday and Sunday, where flooding is possible,” the weather agency said.

In the past week, at least 17 deaths in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas have been linked to the severe weather.

A spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said 54 people were injured in the state and more than 400 homes were damaged.

The Northeast

After dumping 5 to 10 inches of snow in parts of the Upper Midwest, a weather system will move east and slam central and northern Maine, the NWS said.

Parts of the state could get walloped with 5 to 10 inches of snow.

It will be a wild contrast to the record-breaking high temperatures in the Northeast on Christmas Day.

Record high temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees above normal continue for the East today. More more seasonable temperatures are not expected until late next week.


Four people died in a weather-related car accident in Aitkin County, Minnesota, on Saturday, State Trooper Lt. Tiffani Nielson said.

The accident was one of 204 that happened on snow-covered roads Saturday, she said.

CNN affiliate WCCO reported the accident involved a Mazda SUV and a Chevy Suburban. Three of the people in the Suburban were seriously injured in the crash, the Minneapolis station said.

By Holly Yan, Slma Shelbayah and Steve Almasy, CNN

CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Michael Guy, Dave Alsup, Chandler Friedman and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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