Eyewitness News at 11, 12-25-12

12:23 AM, Dec 26, 2012   |    comments
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The possibility of storms is our top story on this Christmas night.... As the same line of severe weather that battered Texas...and spawned *this* tornado...caught on a live evening newscast earlier in downtown Mobile Alabama... Makes its way east.

Good evening, everyone.

I'm Frank Malloy.

Leah Johnson has the night off.

We're getting right to our weather tonight with meteorologist John Boyer, tracking things in the weather center.

John, we have a tornado watch for a couple of counties in our area right now...

Let's take another look at that footage from downtown Mobile.


The National Weather Service has yet to officially call it a twister, but you can see the formation in this picture.

It has the shape of a funnel cloud...and you can see sparks of electricity clearly captured on camera.

This actually struck during a live newscast from TV station WALA.

The city's fire department tweeted that there are reports of downed power lines and tree limbs as well as damage at a high school.

At least two possible tornadoes touched down in Texas bringing strong winds.

One person was killed in Tomball in metro Houston, crushed by a falling tree.

You can see in this video fallen trees are blocking this roadway.

In Oklahoma, nasty weather snarled holiday travel.

A pileup involving 21 vehicles, including three big rigs, shut down Interstate 40-West, outside Oklahoma City.

State police say freezing rain is the likely cause of the chain-reaction crashes on an overpass.

About 10 people were taken to the hospital.

Some facts tonight...from the National Weather Service, which says Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida are the most likely states to have tornado events around this time of year. That's based on both historical statistics and climatology. The last time a number of tornadoes impacted the Gulf Coast area around Christmas Day was in 2009, when 22 tornadoes occurred during the morning of December 24th. In 60 years there have been two EF4-rated tornadoes on Christmas Eve, one in 1982 in Arkansas, the other in 1988 in Tennessee. The last killer tornado around Christmas was a Christmas Eve F4 in Tennessee in 1988, killing one person and injuring 7.

Back in 1964,14 tornadoes--three of them F3's---hit Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia--over a two day period on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were two deaths in Central Georgia; about 30 people injured...with a lot of damage around Milledgeville.

Sad news tonight... As the military identifies a Georgia contractor who was killed in Afghanistan.

Officials say 49-year-old Joseph Griffin of Newton County was shot at a police station in Kabul.

Griffin was a military veteran, who reportedly worked with law-enforcement agencies in the U.S.

He was in Kabul advising police forces.

Police say Griffin was killed by an Iranian woman who came to Afghanistan ten years ago and obtained a fake I-D through her husband.

Although she was in the country illegally, officials say they haven't found any militant connections to the attack.

For those who have served abroad, particularly during times of war... Christmas can make separation from loved ones harder than ever.

So for decades, the U.S.O. has committed itself to bringing touches of home to those men and women away during the holidays.

But as Bill Liss from our Gannett sister station, WXIA, explains...one tradition at Atlanta's airport didn't happen as usual this year, and USO Volunteers say, that's all right with them.

Troops deploying for war.

On Christmas Day, more than 400 at a time crowding into a festive USO lounge before most of them lined the balcony at the USO, then ceremonially crossing the Hartsfield Jackson Atrium with children and families in tow--hearing resounding cheers and shouts of thanks.

Its happened every year since 2003.

But now a dramatic change.

{***SOT FULL***}

<its the first christmas day in 9 years that no troops are marching across the Atrium at Hartsfield Jackson on their way to the combat zones of Afghanistan>


Empty military checkin counters, an empty balcony over the Atrium and a near empty USO--a sure sign the war is winding down, but it has not deterred a corps of volunteers from laying out a full course Christmas banquet for any military personnel stopping by.

{***SOT FULL***}

<we have the chefs here. We have gifts for the troops and for military children we have gifts. it's a wonderful atmosphere so for any military we're here and always will be>

And so will Santa--Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jackson Bedford.

{***SOT FULL***}

<i was deployed over a Thanksgiving and a Christmas. I was flying off a carrier off of the coast of North Vietnam and so I know how it feels to be away from home.>


A feeling shared by Army Private Peter Ryan transiting to a base and facing deployment to Afghanistan.

{***SOT FULL***}

<you think about family back celebrating christmas and they are worried about you and just as much as you are worried about them and what they are doing>

{***SOT FULL***}

<i am thinking about my mom more than anything. My mom wants me gome so its hard not being home with my mom>

Deployments are expected to pick up in January as the steady rotation of military personnel will continue in and out of Afghanistan through 2014.

From the USO at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Bill Liss, 11Alive News.

A soldier and his dog had been separated for almost a year... But the two were reunited just in time for the holidays.

More than 20 volunteers helped transport the 2-year-old boxer named rowdy from Colorado back to his owner, Sergeant Kevin Maine.

Rowdy moved to Colorado with Maine's ex wife early this year, but when she asked Maine to take Rowdy back, he didn't have the leave time or money to make the trip.

His mom Kathy Smith reached out and found the Kindred Hearts Transport Group, a network of people who drove Rowdy across several states.

Maine says it's all he wanted for Christmas.

<"to separate a man from his dog is like taking his best friend away it's going to be nice to have him home... To come home to everyday to meet you at the door with his tail wagging."

"so many christmases i've had to send care packages to iraq so it's important to me to just have my son home but I think for Kevin it's important to have his dog back that's the only thing he asked for, for christmas.">

Kevin Maine is an active duty army sergeant stationed at Fort Benning. He's had two deployments to Iraq.

Today may be Christmas...but tomorrow...nonprofit Kids Yule love will make sure Santa comes for a Macon family touched by a very unhappy surprise this morning.

Brittany Hadley and her five god-children were visiting relatives when she got the call...that her home had been totally destroyed by fire.

And along with her house and possessions, the Christmas presents Hadley was planning to give the kids.

Investigators still aren't sure was caused the fire at her Hazel Street address... But Hadley isn't letting the uncertainty...and the loss of property destroy her holiday spirit.

<From the looks of it, everything is that I own is gone now, so I just try to count my blessings and thank God that I still have me versus my items, and I feel like I just have to count every day as a blessing versus the material things.>

Kids Yule Love...plans to donate new presents in the morning.

If you want to get involved, you can visit the organization's website at kidsyulelove-dot-com.

Police are releasing new details about man accused of killing of two firefighters in upstate New York.

They say he set a Christmas Eve fire in Webster, New York, that burned seven homes to the ground, including his own.

But police say William Spengler wanted to do much more damage, leaving a note behind saying he wanted to destroy the neighborhood and kill people.

As they fought the fire, the 62-year-old shot at firefighters from a nearby bank - he killed two of them - before taking his own life.

Police found his note and 3 guns - including a bushmaster rifle - similar to the weapon used in the Connecticut school shooting..


He served 17 years in prison and after being released moved in with his sister.

Investigators found a body in the charred rubble of Spegler's home - and believe it could be his sister's.

Newtown police officers have been working around the clock since the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

So today... Some of their colleagues...officers from other towns...gave them the gift of time with their families.

Neighboring forces patrolled Newtown...while all the city's police men and women got the day off.

The Newtown officers say coping with the tragedy has been hard...but help from other brothers-in-arms has lightened the load.

<"To look out and to see all these guys I never knew before, but they're cops and they came to help us and to aid us and not just with the day to day stuff but to help us heal and ask us how we're doing. Those agencies, I can't give a big enough thank you to.">

Even the chief of police from the nearby town of Shelton pulled a shift today.

He came to Newtown to help with administrative duties.

A Boston Police officer is being called a hero after he jumped into freezing water to rescue a woman.

Edward Norton is an 11 year veteran of the force.

He spotted a woman alone, screaming, and barely hanging onto a raft in the Fort Point Channel.

Bystanders say...Officer Norton didn't hesitate before pulling of his coat, unbuckling his gun belt, and jumping in to save her, splashing into the 40 degree water.

He caught a life ring another officer threw him, and took 38 strokes to reach her.

Norton's body temperature dropped to 90 degrees by the time he reached an ambulance.

He and the woman were treated for hypothermia.

The so-called biggest Christmas Day 5k in the USA was held today in St Paul, Minnesota.

There are only two other continuing Christmas Day run/walks in the whole country, and this St Paul event prides itself on being the one closest to the North Pole.

The 5k theme is "Miracle Miles - Celebration of Joy" emphasizing the irreplaceable health benefits of exercise, and the power of exercise as medicine.

Participation for this 7th Annual "Christmas Day - Joyful 5k" Event was about 300, including individuals visiting MN for the holidays from 20 other states and even other countries.


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