A snowstorm sweeps from Texas to the Great Lakes, triggering tornadoes, shutting down power and leaving at least 12 people dead.

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The National Weather Service forecast 12 to 18 inches of snow for northern New England as the storm moved away from the Great Lakes, where it dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Michigan.

Severe thunderstorms and widespread rain were expected from Virginia to Florida on Thursday. The eastern counties in North Carolina and South Carolina were under tornado watches or warnings.

There have been at least 12 deaths linked to the storm. Indiana officials said a man and a woman were hit by a pick-up truck and died when their scooter went out of control on a snowy street. A man checking on a disabled vehicle was struck and killed in Pennsylvania. Two others were killed in crashes in Virginia. A Texas man died after an accident involving a toppled tree in the road.

The storm initially swept out of the southern Great Plains and through the south on Tuesday, spawning at least 34 tornadoes. The front was accompanied by freezing rain and sleet. The storm dumped record snow in north Texas and Arkansas. Twisters struck in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, flattening houses and causing injuries. Nearly 200,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in Arkansas and Alabama on Wednesday.

Flights cancelled

Hundreds of flights were delayed or cancelled, frustrating holiday travellers. At least 200 flights were cancelled on Thursday, including 30 on American Airlines, in addition to about 1,500 flights on Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported.

Mary Mazzoni, 25, a writer from Scottsdale, Arizona, had to book an alternate flight on a different airline after her original flight to Phoenix was cancelled. "It's a little annoying. But I'm trying to keep a good attitude about it," she said, who was returning to Arizona after visiting relatives for the Christmas holidays.

Cold rain

The US eastern seaboard was drenched with cold rain and high winds. National Weather Service spokesman David Roth said the heaviest snowfall would be in northern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and inland sections of several New England states - in the same region as those states severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October.

Thirty-three people died and 8 million were left without power when Sandy slammed America's east coast. The latest storm is expected to move into Canada on Friday morning.

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