Chicago: A massive Christmas storm that whipped up tornadoes, ice and snow from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes has killed at least seven people and grounded more than 2,000 flights.
The storm snarled holiday travel as people were warned to stay home rather than brave the strong winds, freezing temperatures and treacherous roads.
The National Weather Service warned of "dangerous travel conditions due to snow and ice covered roads" and said the weight of ice and snow could knock down power lines and trees.
Already, more than 200,000 people were in the dark.
The weather service forecast up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow from New York State up to Maine and warned of freezing rain, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms all the way down to the Carolinas. Areas in the Rocky Mountains were also set to get about a foot of snow from a second storm system on Wednesday.
Albion, Illinois had already recorded 18.3 inches (47 centimeters) of snow by yesterday afternoon while parts of Pennsylvania had recorded as much as half an inch (1.3 centimeters) of freezing rain as the storm continued to pound the region.
The Indiana state police said it had responded to 159 crashes near Indianapolis -- many of them with multiple vehicles - in just the first few hours of the storm.
More than 1,500 US flights had been cancelled by yesterday evening, after 536 were grounded on Tuesday, according to flight tracker FlightAware. Another 201 were already cancelled for Thursday.
"The biggest factor on both coasts is high winds and winds not aligned with runways," FlightAware chief Daniel Baker said.
"This causes significant capacity constraints that lead to long delays and cancellations."
Scores of homes and businesses were damaged Tuesday after 34 tornadoes were reported in the southern US states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. James Bowman said he was sitting in his living room when a sudden wind rattled his rural Texas home apart Tuesday afternoon.
"The inside of the living room started falling down, so I just sat there in the recliner and then it didn't last but just a few seconds -- then it stopped," Bowman, who was alone at the time, told a news channel.
"I just thank God that I wasn't hurt and the walls and stuff didn't fall in on me." The governors of both Mississippi and Alabama have declared states of emergency.


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