Christmas lights also were knocked out with more than 100,000 customers without power for at least a time in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Blizzard conditions were possible for parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky up to Cleveland with predictions of several inches to a foot of snow. By the end of the week, that snow was expected to move into the Northeast with again up to a foot predicted.
Jason Gerth said the Mobile tornado passed by in a few moments and from his porch, he saw about a half-dozen green flashes in the distance as transformers blew. His home was spared.
"It missed us by 100 feet and we have no damage," Gerth said.
In Louisiana, quarter-sized hail was reported early Tuesday in the western part of the state and a WDSU viewer sent a photo to the TV station of what appeared to be a waterspout around the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans. There were no reports of crashes or damage.
Some mountainous areas of Arkansas' Ozark Mountains could get up to 10 inches of snow, which would make travel "very hazardous or impossible" in the northern tier of the state from near whiteout conditions, the weather service said.
The holiday may conjure visions of snow and ice, but twisters this time of year are not unheard of. Ten storm systems in the last 50 years have spawned at least one Christmastime tornado with winds of 113 mph or more in the South, said Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman in Washington, via email.
The most lethal were the storms of Dec. 24-26, 1982, when 29 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi killed three people and injured 32.
In Mobile, a large section of the roof on the Trinity Episcopal Church is missing and the front wall of the parish wall is gone, said Scott Rye, a senior warden at the church in the Midtown section of the city.
On Christmas Eve, the church with about 500 members was crowded for services.
"Thank God this didn't happen last night," Rye said.
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., Jeff Amy in Atlanta, Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans and AP Business Writer Daniel Wagner in Washington, contributed to this report.
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