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Tornadoes touch down in Alabama as storm moving across the country brings snow, ice, flooding and extreme winds

By Judson Jones and Steve Almasy, CNN

Millions of Americans were under winter weather alerts, wind advisories or flood watches as a broad storm with a “plethora of weather hazards” raced across the US Thursday.

The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes touched down about 30 miles north of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with trees in the roadway and unspecified structural damage reported. Other tornadoes were reported in Pell City, east of Birmingham, and in Shelby County, southeast of the city.

In Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee reports of trees and power lines down were coming in to the US Storm Prediction Center.

About 24,000 customers were without power Thursday night in Alabama, according to poweroutage.us. In Tennessee there were 16,000 homes and businesses without power while Kentucky and West Virginia each had more than 10,000 customers in the dark.

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To the north, more than 24 million people were under a winter storm warning or advisory.

“A dynamic winter storm is developing over the Southern Plains this morning and set to produce a plethora of weather hazards throughout the central and eastern U.S. through early Friday,” the Weather Prediction Center said earlier Thursday.

Potential for floods

As of Thursday night, there was a line of storms from Louisiana to New England.

Along with the severe weather there were the isolated pockets of potential flooding fed by severe thunderstorms as the storm headed east. However, there is a higher risk of flooding on the northern fringes of the warm moist air colliding with colder air.

There were flash flood warnings in central Alabama and flood warnings in parts of Illinois New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

On the cold side of the system, a thin strip of snow fell from Oklahoma to Michigan.

Chicago experienced an intense band of snow as the system moved through, depositing accumulations of up to 4.5 inches in the city.

Kansas City set a daily record for February 17 with 7 inches of snow, surpassing 1893 when 6 inches fell. Other areas in the state saw as much as 10 inches.

But it isn’t just the Midwest. All the way up to Maine, people are likely to see rain transition over to winter weather as the cold air advances through. “Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories span over 1,500 miles from western Oklahoma to northern Maine,” the prediction center said.

Airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights with US arrivals or departures, according to the tracking website FlightAware.

FlightAware said a third of flights were canceled out of the Detroit Metro (more than 140 flights) and Kansas City airports. One-quarter of flights scheduled out of St. Louis Lambert International Airport were canceled.

Hundreds of flights were scrapped in the busy Chicago area, which saw snow and ice. Cancellations included more than 260 flights at Chicago O’Hare (24% of the schedule) and 81 at Chicago Midway (31% of the schedule), according to FlightAware.

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CNN’s Gene Norman and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.

CNN

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