A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday in the U.S. South as a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Alabama, including through the southwest portion of Birmingham, the state's largest city.
Witnesses spotted the funnel outside the city about 5 p.m. An hour later, the National Weather Service confirmed that first responders were on the scene along Jefferson Avenue in a working-class neighborhood about eight miles from downtown Birmingham.
Lieutenant Sean Edwards, a Birmingham police spokesman, said trees were down and people were trapped inside damaged houses, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.
Weather radar Friday evening showed an intense system along the Interstate 20/59 corridor west of Birmingham, with the storm moving eastward. Flooding was reported in counties throughout the region, as heavy rain continued to fall.
The Alabama tornado was the latest development in a series of storms that has hammered the South during Christmas week. Unseasonably warm weather on Wednesday helped spawn torrential rain and deadly tornadoes that left at least 14 people dead and dozens of families homeless by Christmas Eve.
On Friday, parts of Mississippi remained under a flood warning. Weather forecasters from the National Weather Service warned that a strong storm crossing the central part of the state could produce hail and winds of more than 40 mph. The storm was bringing with it the risk of falling trees, downed power lines and flash flooding, officials said.
More severe weather was also in store for parts of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee that were again being pounded with rain. Residents were warned to brace for flash flooding and possible tornadoes.
The Eastern U.S., meanwhile, has experienced an unusually warm December this year, and Christmas Day was no exception.
East Coast cities like Washington, New York and Boston that often get snow at this time of year were experiencing record high temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.
Most people left their winter jackets at home for holiday activities, and, with no cold air to hold them back, some cherry trees in the nation’s capital have blossomed, giving the city a spring feel and look.
Record highs were set in many cities, including Washington. New York officially recorded its warmest-ever Christmas Day temperature.
The abnormal warmth was expected to stay for several more days along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, according to the National Weather Service.
It was a different story on the West Coast, where mountainous portions of Southern California endured freezing high temperatures and snowfall Friday.
Mountain areas that supply much of the state's water supply have above-average snowpacks, raising hope that a severe four-year drought in the area is easing, though not yet coming to an end.