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Tornadoes Touch Down with Deadly Force in New Year's Eve Tragedy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After a week of extreme weather -- rain and mudslides in the West, blizzard conditions in the East -- it seemed the only thing missing was a tornado.

Friday there were at least 20. Six people were known killed.

From Arkansas to Missouri to Illinois, the funnel clouds came out of nowhere Friday in the worst outbreak of twisters on a New Year's Eve in 50 years.

In northwest Arkansas, a tornado obliterated a house and killed three people in the tiny town of Cincinnati. The violent weather then moved northeast into Missouri, killing three more before heading into Illinois.

In Sparta, Mo., Jessica Barnes and her three-year-old son were lucky to survive as a twister passed.

"I placed him in the tub first and then laid on top of him," Barnes said. "When we came to, he was actually on top of me and first thing he said was 'my house is broken.' There were some boards laying on top of us, and I somehow managed to get them off of me and then screamed out for help from my neighbors."

Tornadoes are extremely rare this time of year, but those that do occur are often deadlier because they move faster in the cold air, leaving less time for warnings.

Blizzard warnings were in effect Friday for parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, according to the National Weather Service.

The central and northern Rockies and portions of the Midwest are under several winter storm watches and warnings.

On the Las Vegas strip Friday, people preparing to party were shivering from the cold. In Arizona, rare snow flurries dusted the desert around Phoenix, and the Denver area received about half a foot of snow overnight.

Blowing snow in North Dakota led to a massive pile-up Thursday along Interstate 94 west of Fargo. The chain reaction accident involved up to 100 cars and trucks.

In Arizona, a rare blizzard dumped a foot of snow on higher elevations and shut down Interstate 17 Thursday overnight.

Air and ground transportation systems across the country appear to be getting back on track, as millions of people prepared for the new year.

But there are plenty of trouble spots facing people from California to New York who're still recovering from the extreme weather conditions this past week.

In New York, neighborhoods are still digging out from the blizzard that hit the northeast Sunday and Monday in spite of the city's promise that all the streets would be plowed by now.

But travelers this holiday should have far smoother sailing than last weekend. Surveys show more Americans celebrate the new year at home.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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