Emergency crews on Thursday were assessing damage after a dangerous storm system packing strong winds and tornadoes tore through the southern and central United States, killing at least seven people and leaving several others reported missing.
The stormy weather scrambled winter getaway plans in Florida while northeastern states were expected to see unseasonably warm temperatures, with forecasts indicating New York City would be warmer than Los Angeles on Christmas Day.
More than 20 tornadoes were reported on Wednesday in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said.
A large tornado struck a 100-mile stretch of northern Mississippi Wednesday afternoon, demolishing or heavily damaging dozens of homes and other buildings in a six-county area before plowing into Tennessee, authorities said.
Three people were confirmed dead from the storms in Mississippi, including a 7-year-old boy, two more in Tennessee and one in Arkansas, according to emergency management and law enforcement officials in the region.
Emergency crews in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee were looking for several people reported missing and assessing damage from the destructive winds.
Isolated severe thunderstorms were expected to continue early Thursday from Louisiana through Kentucky, up to Washington D.C. and eastern Pennsylvania, the National Weather Service said.
In Tennessee, clobbered by multiple twisters, state Emergency Management Agency officials confirmed a 7-year-old boy, and two adults, a man and woman, were killed.
Flooding from the rains would remain a hazard for drivers early on Thursday, forecasters said.
More than 100 million Americans were expected to travel during the holiday period beginning Wednesday, 91 million of them by car, according to the American Automobile Association.