Storms could spawn major tornadoes, floods in several states
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Forecasters warned of the potential for strong tornadoes that could stay on the ground for long distances in parts of the South on Tuesday, as well as flooding rains and hail the size of tennis balls.
More than 25 million people could be at risk as the storm system moves from east Texas to Indiana and Georgia. The national Storm Prediction Center said in its storm outlook that affected cities could include New Orleans; Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee; and Birmingham, Alabama.
It’s rare that federal forecasters warn of major tornadoes with the potential for carving damages across long distances, but they did so in Tuesday’s forecasts. Tornado watches covering much of Louisiana and Mississippi were announced due to “a particularly dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service said.
“Supercells are expected to develop this afternoon and track northeastward across much of northeast Louisiana and central Mississippi,” the Weather Service said. “Parameters appear favorable for strong and long-tracked tornadoes this afternoon and early evening.”
The severe weather could hit Alabama early Wednesday, forecasters said.
“Multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms -- some capable of long-tracked tornadoes with EF3+ damage potential -- will be possible this afternoon into tonight over parts of the lower Mississippi Valley region and Mid-South,” the Norman, Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center said.
Tornadoes with an EF3 rating on the Enhanced Fujita tornado scale can produce wind gusts of up to 165 mph (266 kph).
All remaining classes at Mississippi State University’s main campus in Starkville switched to remote instruction on Tuesday due to the weather, the university announced. A Mississippi State women’s basketball game against the University of Louisiana-Monroe will still be played on campus, but the venue will be closed to spectators.
Some of Mississippi’s public school systems decided to close early ahead of the storm. The 3,500-student Canton Public School District said it was dismissing students at noon, cancelled after-school activities and rescheduled a basketball game. Another large system outside Jackson -- Madison County Schools -- also said it planned to close schools early.
Flood watches were issued Tuesday for parts of southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama, where 3 to 5 inches of rain (8 to 13 centimeters) could lead to flash flooding, the National Weather Service said.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency urged residents to have multiple ways of receiving weather alerts and know in advance where to go to stay safe. The agency also urged people to take pictures of their property. “These photos can be used for insurance purposes and/or possible assistance if your home is damaged in the storm,” the agency tweeted.
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