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An outbreak of severe thunderstorms, including the potential for a few strong tornadoes, is forecast to shift from portions of the central and southern Plains to the Mississippi River through Friday night, then from the Mississippi River to parts of the Ohio Valleys and central Gulf coast on Saturday.
People spending time outdoors will only need to be vigilant for violent thunderstorms, but also the potential for flash flooding while driving and along small streams.
The threat of violent storms, including tornadoes is likely to continue well after dark Friday night in portions of Missouri, Arkansas, northeastern Texas and northwestern Louisiana, which makes the situation particularly dangerous.
The eruption of thunderstorms will be inspired by a strong temperature contrast, fueled by daytime heating and a surge of Gulf of Mexico moisture and enhanced by strong winds and dry air aloft.
The same storm bringing the ingredients for severe weather together will also produce heavy snow and blizzard conditions in part of the north-central United States and an extreme fire danger farther to the southwest.
More than 28 million people will be at risk for severe weather through Friday night alone. During this time, the potential for damaging weather conditions will extend from near the borders of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, southward to central Texas and eastward to the western portions of Illinois, Tennessee and Mississippi.
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Into Friday night, major cities at risk for violent storms and potential damage include Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri; Fort Smith and Texarkana, Arkansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, Texas.
The storms will pick up forward speed later Friday night as they roll through Springfield, Illinois; St. Louis; Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Shreveport and Alexandria, Louisiana; and Houston.
The storms may bring the full spectrum of severe weather ranging from high winds, large hail, flash flooding, frequent lightning strikes and perhaps a tornado.
On Saturday, the severe weather setup is likely to be complex in that clouds and rain from Friday night's thunderstorms may race eastward and limit severe weather in parts of the Midwest and South, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.
"Where the sun is out long enough to allow some heating, ahead of the push of cooler air is where the greatest risk of severe thunderstorms will be," Pydynowski said.
The greatest risk for violent storms on Saturday and Saturday night will extend from western and middle Tennessee to southeastern Louisiana and the panhandles of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
A severe thunderstorm and flooding rainfall are possible in Nashville, Tennessee; Jackson, Tupelo and Biloxi, Mississippi; Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans and Pensacola, Florida, spanning Saturday to Saturday night.
Farther north the risk of violent thunderstorms will be lower, but storms are likely to bring torrential rainfall and locally gusty winds in portions of the Ohio Valley states. The center of thunderstorm activity in this region may be centered on Illinois.
The risk of heavy, gusty and locally severe thunderstorms is likely to continue farther to the east on Sunday.
Flooding downpours and gusty storms may affect the major airport hubs of Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, to close out the weekend.
The risk of severe thunderstorms will be greatest from the Florida Peninsula, northward to southern and eastern Virginia on Sunday.
Some of the storms along the southern Atlantic coast may bring hail, damaging winds and an isolated tornado.
The NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Tennessee, may be threatened by drenching downpours and gusty thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon.
A sweep of much cooler air will end the severe weather threat from west to east spanning Saturday to Monday.
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Known as Phos-Chek, the fire retardant has been used to fight blazes since 1963.
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A system that has a history of producing flooding and violent thunderstorms will threaten an expansive area of the central United States into Monday night.