AUSTIN (Texas) • At least six people died as severe storms menaced the southern and central United States, pelting a region home to tens of millions of people with heavy rain and hail, and snarling roads as holiday travel began in earnest for the Christmas weekend.
The bad weather on Wednesday scrambled plans for travellers in Florida, even as dreams of a white Christmas melted in north-eastern parts of the country, which were experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures.
An 18-year-old Arkansas woman died and a toddler was injured when a tree crashed into their house after being uprooted by powerful winds during a storm, according to emergency officials.
In Mississippi, at least one person was confirmed dead and the authorities were working to confirm two other reported deaths on Wednesday evening in tornadoes that ripped through the state during the afternoon, said Mr Greg Flynn, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
A seven-year-old boy was among the dead in Mississippi, media outlets including WREG-TV in Memphis, Tennessee, reported, citing officials in the town of Holly Springs.
More than 100 million Americans are expected to travel during the holiday period - 91 million of them by car, according to the American Automobile Association.
In the north-east, where warmer weather spared drivers the crippling delays wrought by winter storms, traffic was heavy, with more rain expected in and around New York.
Meanwhile, travel in Minnesota was briefly disrupted when Black Lives Matter activists, protesting against a spate of police killings of unarmed black people nationwide, shut down roadways to both terminals at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, an airport spokesman said. And in California, protesters blocked traffic near San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday as part of the same "Black Xmas" protest.