Tornadoes: Severe storms expected in the South putting more than 40 million under threat

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CNN
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Severe storms are expected to deliver the potential for a monstrous trio of tornadoes, damaging winds and hail to millions of people across parts of the Southeast and Mississippi Valley beginning Tuesday afternoon, forecasters are warning.

More than 40 million people from southeastern Texas eastward to Georgia, and northward to central Indiana and Illinois are under a threat of severe weather Tuesday, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

The largest potential for severe weather, a Level 4 of 5 moderate risk, is for those in parts of central Mississippi, including Jackson, and parts of east-central Louisiana.

The threat, a Level 4 of 5, is rare this time year for that region, which usually sees tornadoes during the spring and summer months.

“Severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes, very large hail, and a few severe wind gusts are expected this afternoon into the overnight period across parts of the lower to mid Mississippi Valley and parts of the Southeast,” the prediction center explained. A few strong tornadoes will be possible.”

Hail, strong wind gusts and tornadoes are also possible in the Level 3 enhanced risk area, which covers 3 million people across much of Mississippi and parts of western Alabama, southwestern Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and a small part of eastern Texas.

Some of those tornadoes could occur overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, making them even more threatening due to the difficulties of informing people that need to seek better shelter during those hours.

Track the storms as they develop here.

“Another challenge with nighttime tornadoes, especially in the fall and winter, is that storms typically move very quickly, at times 50 or 60 mph,” Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the Storm Prediction Center, told CNN Weather.

“This means that you must make decisions quickly and take shelter based on information contained in the severe thunderstorm or tornado warning, and not wait until the storm arrives,” Bunting added.

Parts of the region may also see heavy rain that could potentially cause flooding due to repeated rounds of thunderstorms, Bunting noted.

The widespread rainfall is expected to range between 1 and 2 inches, with some local areas at risk of seeing up to 4 inches.

In anticipation of the storm’s potential impact, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reminded residents to document any damage they experience.

“We encourage Mississippians to take photos of their home BEFORE the storms. These photos can be used for insurance purposes and/or possible assistance if your home is damaged in the storm,” the agency said on its Twitter account.

The moderate risk the storm system is bringing to the region marks the second time the weather service has issued a Level 4 of 5 threat this month, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

It is also the first time on record there have been two Level 4 threats in November since the storm center started using its five-tier system of severe storm risk categories in 2014, Ward added.

The weather service issued the previous moderate threat on November 4, resulting in 62 tornado reports across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, according to the prediction center. Many homes and businesses were damaged.

And given that tornadoes are not common for the region this time of year, Tuesday’s storm may blindside some people.

“Severe thunderstorms in the fall and winter can be extremely impactful, and may sometimes catch people off guard as thunderstorms tend to occur less frequently during the cooler months,” Bunting explained.

The same storm system has also brought heavy snowfall to 13 states across the West and Upper Midwest, where more than 15 million people currently under winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings.

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