Severe weather to strike southern US into midweek
Areas in Arkansas, Louisiana and surrounding regions that dealt with tornadoes not long ago will be facing yet another threat of severe weather from Dec. 13-14.
A tumultuous weather pattern was just beginning to unfold across the South Central states and the southeastern United States on Tuesday as severe thunderstorms spawned by a massive cross-country storm system rumbled to life.
The likelihood of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes will continue through Wednesday while progressing eastward, AccuWeather meteorologists say. Some of the same cities and towns at risk for the severe thunderstorms were recently hit by a deadly tornado outbreak at the end of November.
Prior to the arrival of severe thunderstorms, tranquil but abnormally warm conditions were in place across the southern Plains on Monday. The warmth has helped to set the stage for the impending severe thunderstorms.
"The drastic contrast of the warm, humid air ahead of the storm and the cold, dry air following the storm will create the right atmospheric conditions for an eruption of severe weather," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff.
A risk to lives and property began to unfold on Monday night as thunderstorms erupted across parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas. Hail up to the size of tennis balls, or 2.50 inches in diameter, was reported in Balko, Oklahoma, located in the state's panhandle. Additionally, wind gusts exceeded 60 mph in Custer county, Oklahoma, according to a report from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
Tornado watches were issued by the National Weather Service for portions of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas during the midday hours on Tuesday.
Several tornado warnings were also active at times into Tuesday morning.
The vast majority of the threat is expected to persist through the morning hours Tuesday. In fact, the severe weather threat will not only continue into Tuesday, but will re-energize as the day progresses and last through Tuesday night.
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Severe thunderstorms will likely become much more widespread on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Because of the increased coverage of the storms and the likelihood for destructive storms to occur after dark, the risk to lives and property will increase significantly. Some of the cities in the path of the storms from Tuesday to Tuesday night include Little Rock, Arkansas; Shreveport, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Houston and New Orleans.
Damaging winds of 60-70 mph are expected, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 80 mph possible in the strongest storms. Multiple strong tornadoes are possible in this zone, along with large hail and torrential downpours.
Motorists along portions of interstates 10, 20, 30, 49, and 55 should be cautious of ponding on highways and reduced visibility in a heavy or gusty downpour. Commuters should be sure to leave extra travel time to reach their destinations.
Across northern and central Missouri, and even into Iowa, gusty winds may accompany any rain that falls on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Even without the presence of severe thunderstorms, the combination of wind and rain could lead to slowed travel in these areas.
The threat for severe weather will continue through Wednesday and shift slightly farther eastward along the Gulf Coast. A few tornadoes could accompany damaging winds and hail with any thunderstorms across Mississippi, Alabama, southeastern Louisiana and the western Florida Panhandle. Waterspouts are also a possibility along the immediate Gulf coast.
A new risk will become even more prevalent from the middle of the week as the storm moves towards the East Coast. While the risk for more wintry weather blossoms across the Northeast, the threat of flooding will spread across the Southeast.
"The slow-moving storm could allow for repeated downpours from the Mississippi River to the southeast Atlantic coast late Tuesday through Thursday," explained Duff.
Widespread rainfall amounts of 1-3 inches are likely from Arkansas and Louisiana to Georgia and the Carolinas, but it will be possible for some locations to pick up more than 3 inches of rain in just a 48-hour time frame.
In the past two weeks, drought conditions have improved for some of these states, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Since much of the South Central region has been receiving rain on a more regular basis in recent weeks, the soil has gotten progressively wetter. The saturated ground means that where downpours persist for a longer period of time, the risk of urban and small-stream flooding will be significantly higher when compared to recent weeks.
Some places are still in a moderate drought, so the rainfall could still be welcome in the long run.
Behind this cross-country storm, dry and cooler conditions are expected to settle in the southern Plains and the southeastern U.S. and last until at least the weekend.
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