Freezing rain and sleet made for a sloppy Christmas trek in parts of the nation's midsection, while residents along the Gulf Coast faced thunderstorms, high winds and tornadoes that were doing damage in some areas.
Our local area is under a very rare blizzard warning with the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., saying some parts of the area could see up to a foot of snow.
Snow isn’t the major worry of the weather service. The winds will be high, potentially causing whiteout conditions and drifting.
Because the storm would be at its worst at the time of normal printing, all daily GateHouse Media daily publications in deep Southern Illinois were printed overnight, along with an early press time for the Paducah Sun newspaper.
Local officials devoted much of Christmas getting ready for a storm and at press time were hoping it would not arrive.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday Saline County Sheriff's Deputies, Harrisburg Police and Illinois State Police were at Saline County Central Dispatch during what had been a slow night so far.
Harrisburg Officer Terry Sisky said the department's newest vehicle — a Humvee — is gassed up and ready to roll if the streets become too hazardous for the other squad cars to navigate.
Illinois Department of Transportation trucks were on state highways spreading salt in preparation for the storm.
Eldorado High School Athletic Director Greg Goodley confirmed the Eldorado Holiday Tournament is expected to start as scheduled 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan said the worse-case scenario for the community has played out in the past. That, he said, is the closing of the interstate.
As in the past, West Frankfort always has several churches lined up to handle refugees from a storm, should the need arise.
The churches have kitchens and, if it is necessary, grocers will open their doors to help feed refugee travelers.
Jordan said Franklin County’s Emergency Management Agency director, Ryan Buckingham, works with the city in handling any emergency.
Jordan feels comfortable that the city is ready for whatever snow arrives.
“The plows and salt trucks are ready. We are prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” Jordan said.
“We’ll be OK,” Jordan said. “We’ve done this before.”
Benton street workers were out early to prepare for the potential blizzard conditions.
Streets and Improvements Commissioner Don Wyant said the workers reported for work at 4 p.m. and he expected all equipment would be ready to go at 6 p.m.
He said plows were being mounted on trucks and the cinder and salt mixtures were being prepared late Tuesday afternoon.
Page 2 of 2 - When snow arrived at Benton, Wyant planned to plow into it with three snow plows, a grader and other equipment.
Some mountainous areas of Arkansas' Ozark Mountains could get up to 10 inches of snow, which would make travel "very hazardous or impossible" in the northern tier of the state from near whiteout conditions, the National Weather Service said. The holiday may conjure visions of snow and ice, but twisters this time of year are not unheard of. Ten storm systems in the last 50 years have spawned at least one Christmastime tornado with winds of 113 mph or more in the South, said Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman in Washington, via email. Christmas 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. Possible damage also was reported near McNeil, Miss.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this item.