, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A line of vigorous storms that spawned deadly tornadoes in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas was sweeping through Alabama Saturday afternoon, while other windy and wet weather systems moved into the Great Lakes region and down the California coast.
A spate of tornado warnings was issued in the area around Birmingham area during the early afternoon, and much of the state was under a tornado watch as was eastern Mississippi until 3 p.m. CST as storms moved eastward in a line from Birmingham north to Huntsville and into Tennessee.
At least four people were reported killed and around 30 were hurt during the early morning hours in rural areas of northern Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas by storms, believed to be tornadoes, which also damaged numerous homes and caused widespread power outages.
"One person called and said he walked outside and saw a funnel cloud take his roof off," a Madison County, Miss., sheriff's dispatcher told CNN Saturday after violent weather moved through shortly before dawn and left around 60 homes damaged and 18 residents injured.
An incoming cold front collided with warm temperatures and produced heavy thunderstorms that dropped nearly an inch of rain on the Birmingham area and also generated hail in some areas. Weather forecasters warned that the rain could disguise an oncoming tornado.
"The primary threats will be tornadoes and isolated large hail with super cells (severe thunderstorms) possible east of the squall line and damaging winds and isolated tornadoes within the line," the National Weather Service warned in a statement from the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
The storms were expected to move into the Carolinas and northern Georgia during the course of the day where they likely would lose some of their punch.
The NWS issued wind advisories for parts of Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas in advance of the front, and in areas of the Great Plains where the frontal system had passed through earlier on its way toward the eastern Great Lakes region. Residents of western Michigan were being advised to brace for 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts during the night.
Heavy snow was forecast in the Sierra and the mountains of Oregon and Idaho while a winter storm moving south along the California coast caused a rash of flooded streets, downed trees and power outages in the San Francisco area and parts of central California.
The rain was moving into the Los Angeles area Saturday afternoon while snow levels in the southern Sierra were forecast to dip to as low as 3,000 feet during the night.
"Strong gusty winds over the higher elevations will produce blowing and drifting snow with whiteout conditions in some areas," the NWS said. "People planning travel to the southern Sierra Nevada should practice winter safety rules; carry chains, warm clothes and blankets as well as food and water."
While the nasty weather was expected to be a burden to motorists driving home from Thanksgiving holiday visits, it was seen as a good omen by ski resorts that were gleefully opening their gates for the holiday crowd.
"The ski resorts figure it's all gravy if they can be open on Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is early this year," John Packer, a spokesman for Harrah's and Harvey's resorts in Lake Tahoe, told the Sacramento Bee.
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)