(CNN) — A powerful storm system provided a white Christmas for many Tuesday, but brought a less idyllic scene to the South, where at least one storm-related death was reported.
A 25-year-old man was killed after a tree fell on his pickup truck as he was driving on the northwest side of Houston, Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Gilliland said. Officials suspected high winds knocked the tree down.
Chunks of the eastern and southern parts of Texas remain under tornado watch through the afternoon, CNN affiliate KPRC reported.
The portion of the country from East Texas to the Florida Panhandle will face severe weather throughout the day, said CNN Meteorologist Alexandra Steele.
Major cities under severe weather threats on Christmas include Houston, New Orleans, Birmingham and Atlanta. The storm will move eastward, putting northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in its sights on Wednesday.
The biggest threat is for the possibility of tornadoes, Steele said. Straight-line winds may be as strong as 60-80 mph from this afternoon through tonight.
A winter storm warning is in effect through at least midnight Tuesday for much of Oklahoma and Arkansas and parts of southern Missouri. By the time the storm is through, these areas could have 4 to 6 inches of sleet and snow.
Even without tornadoes, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said that state residents could see sustained winds between 70 and 80 mph, heavy rain and hail, and dangerous lightning. The system is forecast to move through the state on Christmas Day.
A section of Interstate 40 in Oklahoma near Del City was temporarily closed Tuesday morning after an accident involving 20 vehicles, police said. Freezing rain was probably the cause of the chain reaction of vehicles, which included three big rigs, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said. No life-threatening injuries were reported.
Passengers flying in and out of Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport are being urged to check with their airlines before going to the airport because of the weather there and elsewhere around the county. Delta Air Lines has already canceled four Christmas Day flights, and that carrier and United Airlines are waiving fees for passengers who want to change their scheduled tickets, the airport said in a news release.
One reason for widespread delays this week: The weather is expected to be frightful in much of the United States, not just the Plains and Southeast.
A winter storm watch is in effect from Missouri through Vermont, a huge swath of territory where significant snows are expected to fall through Thursday.