Southern storms: 20 million in the South are at risk of severe storms and tornadoes

CNN Weather

Severe thunderstorms will continue to develop on Monday.


Dangerous thunderstorms rumbled to life across parts of the South on Monday as more than 20 million people from East Texas to the Southeast faced the threat of damaging winds, hail and potentially powerful tornadoes.

The severe thunderstorms moved across East Texas and the Mississippi Valley, bringing at least six reports of high winds, including gusts in Copiah County, Mississippi, estimated at more than 60 mph.

“A storm system will move from the Southern Plains into the northeastern United States through Wednesday, bringing severe thunderstorms to the northern Gulf states, gusty winds and heavy rain in the Southeast, and a wintry mix for the interior Northeast,” the National Weather Service said.

Tornado watches were in effect Monday night for more than 2.5 million people — mostly in Mississippi — as dangerous storms came to life. There were four reports of tornadoes in the state at 8:15 p.m. CT, following a reported twister earlier in neighboring Louisiana.

An increased risk level for severe storms, or a level 3 out of 5, was in effect Monday night for parts of eastern Louisiana and central Mississippi, including Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the Storm Prediction Center said. The greatest risk of strong tornadoes that could deliver wind speeds above 111 mph — EF2 strength or stronger — remained possible across parts of the lower Mississippi Valley, the center said.

CNN Weather

A forecast radar shows severe storms headed for the Lower Mississippi Valley Monday night.

Level 1 and 2 severe threats were in place from Texas to Alabama and Arkansas, including Houston and Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Tornado warnings had not been issued across much of the Southeast since late June, but that changed Monday afternoon. November marks the start of a secondary season of severe weather in the region. The clash between cold, Canadian air drilling into the south and lingering warm, moist air over the Gulf of Mexico typically leads to an increase in damaging thunderstorms from November to December.

The storms could bring a brief reprieve to drought-stricken Louisiana and Mississippi, which could see excessive rainfall of up to 2 inches on Monday, and as much as 3 inches in some areas, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

Louisiana is suffering its worst drought on record—one that has fueled unprecedented wildfires and contributed to the potentially catastrophic intrusion of saltwater into the Mississippi River. Extraordinary drought — the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most extreme category — now covers nearly three-quarters of the state, according to data released last week. In neighboring Mississippi, extraordinary drought has spread over more than half of the state.

The same storm that delivered severe thunderstorms to the south blew through the Rockies over the weekend, leaving heavy mountain snowfall piled nearly a foot high in several parts of Utah, Nevada and Colorado, preliminary snow reports show.

Parts of Utah saw a foot or more of snow, closely followed by some Nevada cities.

Here are some of the latest preliminary snowfall numbers reported by the National Weather Service:

Lower elevations were still warm enough to receive precipitation, with storm totals of 1 to 3 inches reported and isolated totals over 3 inches.

Strong gusts also swept the region, with a gust of 144 mph reported in Mammoth, California, which has an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet.

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