Sunday, 19 May 2024

Dangerous Storms and Tornadoes Are Expected in Midwest and South

Strong to potentially violent tornadoes are likely on Friday in the Mississippi Valley, as a complex and dangerous storm system is poised to hit the Upper Midwest and South and continue through the weekend, forecasters said.

Damaging wind gusts and very large hail are expected in the region from the afternoon through the evening, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said. Widespread and damaging thunderstorms are likely, and flash flooding is also possible, forecasters said.

“Keep in mind that these storms will be fast moving today,” said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist at the Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. “So if you find yourself in the path of one, be prepared to take shelter immediately.”

In the evening, the storms are expected to move east through the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, where they are expected to bring damaging winds, large hail and may spawn strong tornadoes.

The storms could affect an area stretching from Louisiana to Wisconsin, including Little Rock, Ark., Memphis, St. Louis, Des Moines, Chicago and other major cities. In a large area of the Mississippi Valley, “at least a few long-track, strong to potentially violent tornadoes” are probable, the Prediction Center said.

Ahead of the storms, crews worked to clear debris from drains in areas prone to flooding. Officials encouraged residents to have a plan to take shelter, to prepare for possible power outages and to have multiple ways to get weather alerts, such as on their phone and on the radio.

Officials also said people should clear large or loose material from their property, including patio furniture, dead trees and hanging branches that could become “a dangerous projectile” during high winds.

The storms could affect parts of Mississippi that were devastated last week by tornadoes that left at least 26 people dead.

President Biden on Friday is set to visit the Mississippi community hit hardest by the tornadoes, Rolling Fork. Tornadoes killed 13 people and destroyed homes and businesses in the town and in surrounding Sharkey County.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate weather warning on Friday that includes the Quad Cities — Rock Island and Moline, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa — and stretches south down Illinois and eastern Missouri to parts of eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee and Kentucky and northern Mississippi. More than 38 million people are in the moderate and enhanced risk area.

At least a few strong tornadoes are “probable” in the area, forecasters said, and intense damaging wind gusts with “very large” hail are expected.

The Weather Service advised residents to look out for safety alerts. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, people should move to a safe place, preferably an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.

The Quad Cities will likely see two rounds of severe weather on Friday, forecasters said. The first will begin in the early afternoon and the second in the early evening. During both events, winds may reach up to 75 miles per hour, and some strong tornadoes may be possible.

The storms could also produce intense rainfall that leads to flash flooding. The area at greatest risk for flooding through Friday night extends from Arkansas to Kentucky and includes western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. This could be followed by thunderstorms with damaging wind gusts across the northern Appalachians and interior Northeast on Saturday.

Farther north, heavy snow and blizzard conditions are likely from South Dakota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, forecasters said. The combination of heavy, wet snow and high winds could damage trees and cause power outages through the Great Lakes region.

There is evidence that the United States can expect more unusual severe storms as the planet heats up, potentially striking in new places or at unexpected times of year. It’s not clear whether that will mean more tornadoes in the future, but scientists say the risks of increasingly wild weather make it all the more urgent that cities and states take steps to protect people and property.

Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.

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