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Potential Severe Thunderstorm Outbreak Looms For South Thursday, Including Strong Tornadoes

Published in 24 March, 2021

At a Glance

  • An outbreak of severe thunderstorms will likely hit the South on Thursday.

  • Several tornadoes are possible in addition to damaging winds and large hail.

  • Flooding rainfall is also expected in parts of the region.

An outbreak of severe thunderstorms will likely hit the South on Thursday, including the possibility of long-track strong tornadoes, damaging winds, large hail and flash flooding. Some of the severe weather could extend as far north as the Ohio Valley.

The setup for this episode of severe weather is classic for early spring.

Namely, a low-pressure system is forecast to intensify as it quickly tracks from out of the South toward the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes Thursday into early Friday. This will help draw warm, humid air northward from the Gulf of Mexico into the South, allowing the atmosphere to become unstable enough to support a widespread threat of severe storms.

Here’s a closer look at the forecast for what areas could be hit hardest.

Severe Weather, Flooding Forecast

Wednesday-Wednesday Night

Pockets of heavy rain will continue the possibility of flash flooding in southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and coastal Alabama on Wednesday.

Current Radar, Watches and Warnings

(Watches and Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.)

Scattered severe storms could develop by evening and overnight from northern and central parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma into portions of Arkansas and northwest Louisiana.

Some parts of Texas could see two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms, first in the evening, then in the pre-dawn hours early Thursday morning.

Large hail and damaging wind gusts are the primary threats from any storms that turn severe, though an isolated tornado or two cannot be ruled out.

Wednesday-Wednesday Night’s Severe Thunderstorm Forecast

(Shaded on the map above is the likelihood of severe thunderstorms, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Note that not all categories apply for the severe weather risk on a particular day.)

Thursday-Thursday Night

Thursday into Thursday night is when an outbreak of severe storms is likely to occur in the South, including some of the same areas ravaged by an outbreak of 49 tornadoes last week.

Supercell thunderstorms could pose a threat of long-track strong tornadoes as well as large hail and damaging winds, especially from northern and central Mississippi into central Alabama and a portion of western and middle Tennessee. That’s where NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says there is a “moderate”, or a level 4 out of 5, risk of severe storms. Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi, Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee, are some of the cities in this threat area.

At least some severe storms are also possible in a broader area shaded red in the map below from eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana to possibly as far north and east as the Ohio Valley, eastern Tennessee and northwest Georgia. Damaging winds, hail and some tornadoes are possible threats.

Localized flash flooding could also be a concern in many of the same areas at risk for severe weather.

Thursday-Thursday Night’s Severe Thunderstorm Forecast

(Shaded on the map above is the likelihood of severe thunderstorms, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Note that not all categories apply for the severe weather risk on a particular day.)

The threat of severe weather will trend downward as this system moves eastward on Friday. However, a few strong to severe storms cannot be ruled out from southeast Virginia and the Carolinas to southern and central Georgia and southeast Alabama.

Rainfall Forecast

Some areas in the South could see 1 to 3 inches of rain through Thursday night, particularly from the central Gulf Coast into parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Localized flash flooding is possible from the central Gulf Coast to the Tennessee and Ohio valleys into Thursday night.

Heavy rain Wednesday triggered street flooding in New Orleans. Flooding was nearing homes Wednesday afternoon in Houma, Louisiana, about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans.

The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches through Thursday for this area, including New Orleans, Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama.

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