On Wednesday, severe storms are expected to hit the South, threatening over 30 million people with tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds.
“The risk today runs from Iowa to the Gulf Coast. Storms to the north have a higher risk of wind damage and storms farther south will have a higher threat of tornadoes. All will have dangerous lightning and even potential flooding,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.
For northern Louisiana, eastern Arkansas, west-central Mississippi, and southwestern Tennessee, the Storm Prediction Center has issued a Level 3 out of 5 “enhanced risk” warning for severe weather through tonight. According to the core, “numerous severe storms (are) possible,” according to the center.
The environmental conditions could “lead to rapid upscale growth into a broken band of storms and embedded supercells as the afternoon progresses,” said the National Weather Service in Little Rock. Supercell thunderstorms are most well-known for spawning tornadoes, but not all of them do.
A cold front would be draped to the south and east of a low pressure system over the Central Plains. As it moves east, this cold front will be the primary catalyst for storms.
A line of showers and thunderstorms will likely form near this front by early afternoon, extending from eastern Kansas to northeastern Texas. This area has an extreme storm risk of Level 1 out of 5 according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The late afternoon and evening will become more involved and risky. This line of storms will track through an area that is more conducive to tornadoes and other extreme weather, such as hail and high winds. These storms are expected to affect Missouri, eastern Texas, and northern Louisiana.
Storms will sweep across the lower Mississippi River region by Wednesday evening, with the potential for all types of severe weather. Storms as far north as Iowa and as far south as the coasts of southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana may be likely.
Storms will move eastward into early Thursday, bringing severe weather to the Southeast, but the threat of severe weather should have diminished by then.
With 1 to 2 inches of rain expected across the region, flash flooding is a concern. However, localized amounts could be closer to 2 to 4 inches.
“Soil saturation and streamflows have come down significantly from where they were a week ago, but nonetheless still looking at above average soil saturation,” storms are expected to cause flooding in parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi through tonight, according to the Weather Prediction Center.
Some of these storms, especially along the line’s southern edge across parts of Arkansas and Kansas, may be training storms. Storms that train move over the same areas for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of flooding.
Strong storms are expected to continue through the end of the week. On Thursday, scattered severe storms are expected from central Tennessee to southeastern Louisiana and the western Florida Panhandle, according to the National Weather Service.
After that, a new storm system will move into the region, posing a significant severe weather threat across the South on Friday and Saturday.
Tornadoes, as well as damaging winds and hail, may be produced by these storms, but the outlook remains uncertain in terms of timing and which areas are most at risk.