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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE
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Friday
Dec212012

Severe Winter Weather Upends Holiday Travel Plans

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Snow, wind and rain have disrupted holiday travel plans across the Midwest, South and Northeast over the past two days, prompting reports of 200 severe weather incidents and four tornadoes.

Lashing winds and blowing snow stretched from Nebraska to Michigan overnight, shutting down major highways across the region as drivers struggled to stay on the road.  At least 1,000 accidents have been reported, with one north of Des Moines, Iowa, where at least 25 vehicles slammed into each other.  There were so many accidents in Iowa that the National Guard was called in to help motorists, including pre-teen Isaac Wilson.

"The U.S. Army came and put us in this really fancy truck, and we got blankets and snacks and drove all the way here," Wilson of Millard, Iowa, told ABC News.

Two tornadoes reportedly touched down in Arkansas, while one was reported in Alabama and another in Florida.  The most significant damage was from a tornado in Mobile, Ala., with winds of 86 to 110 mph and a path length of 7 miles.

Severe storms have moved off shore on Friday and the Southeast and the Gulf Coast are expected to dry out.

Up to 20 inches of snow fell in Madison, Wis., while up to 14 inches fell in Iowa.  Madison, Dubuque, Iowa, and Des Moines all had daily record snowfall on Thursday.  The University of Wisconsin cancelled some final exams.

In Chicago, the rain finally changed to snow, but the precipitation has almost ended, so less than a half an inch of snow has accumulated at O'Hare Airport.  Still, there were 600 flight cancellations reported on Thursday, as people struggle with pre-Christmas travel.

Snow is coming to an end in Chicago, and most of the Midwest.  A few more inches are still possible for Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Thirteen states from Iowa to Maine are under winter weather watches, warnings and advisories.

In the Northeast, high-wind warnings have been posted for major cities, from Washington, D.C., to New York and Boston, with some minor damage and power outages possible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio