ICYMI: Travel catastrophes around the country sandwich Christmas tranquility

AccuWeather Staff

While some parts of the United States were treated to a pleasant white Christmas, the weather wasn't so enjoyable this week in other areas. From a massive Virginia pileup to snowy highways shut down in California, wintry conditions caused headaches for many travelers on the road for the holidays. Meanwhile, in South Florida, the week got off to a soggy - and record-setting - start. Here's a look back at the week in weather news.

Major pileup on Virginia interstate leaves dozens injured on icy roads

The scene on Virginia's Interstate 64 might have resembled an auto parts junkyard to some last Sunday morning, as 69 vehicles came to a mangled, bunched-up rest on the highway. Icy roads and foggy conditions were the culprit for the Dec. 22 pileup that sent dozens of travelers to the hospital - some with serious injuries.

While the slick roadways were dangerous on their own, the added low visibility spelled disaster for pre-Christmas travelers. The accidents happened near Norfolk by the Queens Creek Overpass area a little before 8 a.m., local time. Police said 11 people were seriously injured, with another 51 people also sent to regional hospitals. Fortunately, no deaths or life-threatening injuries were reported.

Emergency personnel on the scene of a large pileup on I-64. (York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office)

One of the people caught in the middle of the terrifying pileup described the crashes as an "apocalyptic moment."

"It really just got really foggy really quick," Bray Hollowell told WTVR-TV. "I just was driving on the bridge, and then out of nowhere, I see an accident, and I just brake. And I couldn't really do much to avoid, I just ran into people."

Parts of the US woke up to a spectacular, if not white, Christmas

Some residents across the U.S. didn't have to dream of a white Christmas at all. When they opened their eyes on the holiday morning, it was a reality in regions including parts of the Northeast, Southwest and Northwest.

Photo taken at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Wednesday morning. (Twitter/@SequoiaKingsNPS)

In Maine, snow fell over the western portions of the state on Dec. 25, while New York state's Adirondack Mountains appeared positively picturesque as white powder covered the snowy mountain ranges that day. In the Southwest, wintry conditions impacted areas from the Grand Canyon to the mountains in Los Angeles County over the past week.

Sierra Nevada's higher elevations experienced heavier snow along with icy conditions on Christmas - but the good news is that the scenic conditions outside were an ideal backdrop for unwrapping gifts in the warm indoors that morning. Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Denali National Park was blanketed with snow that hindered travel in the area.

Post-Christmas storm causes travel headaches in California

The day after Christmas in Southern California was anything but scenic, as a winter storm wreaked havoc on travelers trying to get back home on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I-5 in Tejon Pass was a snowy mess as people tried to navigate the roadways near Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported.

Traffic came to a halt on I-15 over Cajon Pass; however, both directions of the road eventually re-opened later that afternoon. Tragically, a truck driver was found dead in a rig along I-5 in Tejon Pass. Authorities have yet to determine if the death was related to the weather conditions.

There was another death in San Diego County, according to the AP, when a 60-year-old woman perished as the car she was riding in veered off a snow-covered road near Warner Springs. The passenger was unbuckled, authorities reported, and the car crashed into an embankment.

A tornado also briefly touched down on Wednesday, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported. It hit across Ventura Harbor, where its strong winds up to 85 mph toppled five trees to the ground.

Heavy rain, flooding halt flights in South Florida

The week got off to a very soggy start in South Florida, where heavy rains and flash flooding led to dozens of flight delays. Much to the dismay of last-minute holiday travelers, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had to close early Monday morning due to the severe weather, but flights did resume around 6:30 a.m., according to the AP.

The bad weather impacted over 150 flights, leading to at least 11 of those being canceled. Local media reported that around 6 inches of rain fell between midnight and the early hours of Monday morning. Outside of the airport, other areas in South Florida were hit with flooded parking garages and streets.

The wet weather helped set daily rainfall records in parts of Florida early in the week. In Key West, 5.48 inches of rain from a storm swirling along the Gulf Coast on Sunday set a new record while flooding Duval Street.

In Fort Lauderdale, a record of 7.23 inches was set as the rain drenched the city Sunday night into Monday. In just one hour on Sunday, 4.45 inches of rain hit the local airport.

Deadly Christmas Day typhoon strikes the Philippines

Tragedy struck the Philippines on Christmas Eve through Christmas Day as at least 16 people died when Typhoon Ursula struck the country. Ursula had the strength of a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall in the Eastern Samar province on Tuesday afternoon.

The storm hit the islands with flooding rainfall and powerful winds, and by Wednesday, it had built up strength equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.

Amid the chaos, the typhoon triggered a travel nightmare for the 23,000 passengers stranded at ports in Bicol, Visayas, Tagalog and Mindanao, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. The typhoon's strong winds even partially collapsed a ceiling at Kalibo International Airport.

Aerial views of the aftermath showed extensive flood damage across Capiz.