RPT-UPDATE 2-Winter storms hit eastern US, snarl post-holiday travel

(Repeats to widen distribution, no change to headline or text)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Dec 26 (Reuters) - The severe winter

weather that hit parts of the central and southern United States

on Christmas Day moved eastward on Wednesday, causing flight

delays and dangerous road conditions for holiday travelers in

the Northeast and Ohio Valley.

Some flights headed for New York, Philadelphia and Newark,

New Jersey, experienced delays averaging one to four hours due

to the inclement weather, the Federal Aviation Administration

said.

About 1,300 U.S. flights had been canceled on Wednesday,

according to FlightAware.com. Several airlines waived ticket

change fees for affected customers.

All four runways at Philadelphia International Airport were

open on Wednesday, but that didn't prevent cancellation of

physical therapist Mindy Bartscherer's flight to Minneapolis.

She and her son Zachary Bartscherer, 24, a lobbyist from

Washington D.C., had planned to visit family but instead waited

forlornly in the baggage claim area for a ride back home. They

expected to return to the airport early on Thursday to try

again.

"We were going to have dinner and see my 2-year-old niece,"

Mindy Bartscherer said of their thwarted plans for Wednesday

night.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard and winter

storm warnings in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, as well as much of

the Northeast, and cautioned that the wintry weather would

create "treacherous" driving conditions.

More than six inches of snow might fall in those regions,

while the area from western New York up into central Maine could

get from 12 to 18 inches, the NWS said.

As of Wednesday morning, Bloomington, Indiana, already had

nearly a foot of snow and Indianapolis had about seven inches,

according to AccuWeather.com.

Severe thunderstorms and widespread rain were expected from

southeast Virginia to Florida, the NWS said, and the eastern

counties in North Carolina and South Carolina were under tornado

watches or warnings for much of the day.

The wet and snowy conditions follow a major winter storm

system that swept through the southern United States on Tuesday,

spawning tornadoes in several states and causing the deaths of

at least five people in weather-related road accidents.

Twisters struck in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and

Louisiana, flattening houses and causing injuries, according to

the weather service. The storm also dumped record snowfalls in

North Texas and Arkansas.

Nearly 200,000 homes and businesses remained without

electricity in Arkansas and Alabama on Wednesday.

Damage assessments were conducted in the 11 Alabama counties

that reported varying degrees of property destruction from

Tuesday's storms.

The city of Mobile appeared to be hardest hit, with damage

to as many as 100 structures, including the historic Trinity

Episcopal Church, according to the Alabama Emergency Management

Agency.

Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in

Mississippi, where a dozen counties reported damage and more

than 25 people were injured on Tuesday.

The severe holiday weather also contributed to a 21-vehicle

pile-up that shut Interstate 40 in downtown Oklahoma City on

Tuesday and caused power outages for tens of thousands of

residents.

A Texas man died after an accident involving a toppled tree

in the road, and icy roads contributed to the deaths of four

people in auto crashes in Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to

police.

About 1,000 people spent the night on cots at the

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after some 400 flights

were canceled there on Tuesday due to weather, said Cynthia

Vega, media relations manager at the airport.

On Wednesday morning, some 50 more flights were canceled,

she said.

"We're hoping to get passengers back on track," Vega said.

"It's probably going to be a little hectic at the airport."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by Corrie

MacLaggan, Eileen O'Grady, Steve Olafson and Dave Warner;

Editing by Paul Thomasch and Gunna Dickson)

Most Popular in Business