Storms snarl traffic, batter Midwest and Northeast

Updated 10:45 PM EST, Wed December 26, 2012

Story highlights

NEW: At least six dead from weather-related incidents, including two children

NEW: National Weather Service says Mobile tornado was an EF2

Airports, drivers see lengthy delays as snow, wind affect Northeast

Little Rock digs out from a Christmas record snowfall

Editor’s Note: Severe weather is affecting parts of the United States. Send your photos and videos to CNN iReport, but please remember to stay safe.

(CNN) —  

Winter weather complicated travel for many Americans on Wednesday – and left six dead in weather-related accidents, and even forced one NBA team to take the rare step of postponing a game due to the conditions.

Six people, including two young children, have died in weather-related incidents since Tuesday. A 1-year-old and 2-year-old child were killed in a car accident in Arkansas, an official with the state’s department of emergency said. Tommy Jackson also said a man was killed in his home in Saline County by a falling tree.

A 53-year-old man in Rayville, Louisiana, was killed when a tree fell on his house, Richland Parish Sheriff Lee Harrell said.

Snow totals in parts of Indiana ranged from 6 to 12 inches, CNN affiliate WRTV in Indianapolis reported. About 350 snowplows were clearing roads throughout the city.

“It’s pretty bad. You get a lot of drifting out there. That’s what’s killing us, mainly,” said plow driver David White.

The Indiana Pacers said their game against the Chicago Bulls was rescheduled due to severe weather in Indianapolis. No makeup date was announced.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told residents they should avoid nonessential travel.

“Winter weather has arrived for many parts of the state, so as a precaution we have opened the emergency operation center to coordinate response efforts using all state and local resources,” Cuomo said. “I also urge New Yorkers to closely watch local news reports for weather updates and adjust their travel plans accordingly.”

New York State Police said long sections of Interstate 84 and the Taconic State Parkway were closed for several hours while crews cleared snow.

Wind was causing major delays at airports, including Philadelphia International Airport. At one point, it had delays of more than four hours, the longest setbacks in the country, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Several other airports in the Northeast experienced delays of more than two hours on Wednesday.

CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele said wind was the primary problem.

“(Many of) the big cities aren’t seeing snow accumulation, they’re seeing very heavy rain with the wind, ” she said. One gust in New York reached 31 mph, and gusts could become stronger as the night progressed, she said.

Airlines cancel hundreds of flights

Drivers in Pennsylvania were traversing ice- and snow-covered streets and highways. In Pittsburgh, which was seeing its first major snowfall of the season, travelers battled the elements. One said a trip from her mother’s house that normally could be done in 30 minutes took her three hours.

CNN affiliate WTAE reported the speed limit of some sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were lowered to 45 mph and big rigs with empty trailers or two trailers weren’t allowed on the road.

A CNN photojournalist who traveled from Ohio to Washington, D.C., said one two-mile stretch of the turnpike took 30 minutes to navigate.

As many people tried to get home, others were surveying the results of the storms that began in the Midwest and surged east.

A white Christmas is rare for Little Rock, Arkansas, but a powerful winter storm took it to a new level: The 9 inches that fell broke a December 25 snowfall record that stood for 86 years.

In areas where the storm has passed, officials were assessing the damage.

More than 25 storm-related injuries were reported in Mississippi, the state’s emergency management office said. No fatalities were reported.

In addition to the injuries, about 70 homes were damaged, most in the southern portion of the state.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency for several battered Mississippi counties, a declaration that helps get support to victims. He said that at least eight counties reported damage and injuries. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared a statewide disaster.

“Our main priority is focused on recovery,” said John Kilcullen, director of operations for emergency management in Mobile, Alabama.

Officials at the National Weather Service gave a preliminary EF2 rating to a tornado that struck downtown Mobile on Christmas Day. Other tornadoes – one that went though parts of Choctaw County, Alabama, and ones than struck Stone, Lawrence and Jones counties in Mississippi – also were EF2’s, which have wind speeds (for three-second bursts) between 111 and 135 miles per hour.

The weather service said an even stronger EF3-rated tornado struck Pearl River County in Mississippi.

CNN’s Devon Sayers, Chuck Johnston, Carma Hassan, Todd Sperry, Jeremy Moorhead, Mariano Castillo, Joe Sutton, and David Close contributed to this report.