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Severe storms bear down on East threatening damaging wind, flooding and tornadoes

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
April 19, 2019, 11:16:30 PM EDT

Severe weather, including tornadoes will focus along the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Pennsylvania and New Jersey into Friday night as the multiple-day severe weather outbreak that began on Wednesday continues.

This is the second severe weather outbreak in less than a week for parts of the South and the mid-Atlantic region. The outbreak from last weekend produced nearly 70 confirmed tornadoes, including a few strong twisters of EF3 strength.

While there were no injuries or major damage reported with the tornadoes from Wednesday night, winds and flooding in thunderstorms turned deadly on Thursday.

Lightning overly satellite 4/18/2019

A lightning overlay on a satellite image shows a line of severe weather marching eastward across the South on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (NOAA/CIRA)

One fatality was reported in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on Thursday afternoon after a tree fell onto a vehicle. Two others were injured across the state as severe storms swept through the region. Two other deaths were reported across the region as Thursday night wore on.

There have been close to 20 tornado reports from Wednesday through Thursday as crews continue to investigate.

The atmospheric setup to end the week may bring the most daily tornadoes of this outbreak and perhaps the most dangerous wind conditions.

Severe Friday Evening 3pm

As of the middle of the afternoon on Friday, there have been many tornado warnings issued with a few confirmed so far.

Damaging winds and the potential for tornadoes will focus in heavy population areas along the Eastern seaboard into Friday night and should be taken seriously. The flash flooding risk is more extensive and ranges from the Appalachians to eventually the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts.

There is a significant risk area for tornadoes and/or thunderstorms with powerful straight-line wind gusts in the central and eastern parts of the Carolinas and Virginia into Friday evening.

Greatest Risk Friday Eve 3 pm

Airline passengers from Charlotte, North Carolina to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia should anticipate significant turbulence.

Commuters will need to remain extra vigilant during their travels. Driving during severe weather can be extremely dangerous, as evidenced by deaths in vehicles that occurred on Thursday in Mississippi.

Cities at risk for severe weather, other than those aformentioned include Raleigh and Fayetteville, North Carolina; Danville, Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia; Columbia, Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida; and Washington, D.C.

Even one tornado that strikes a heavily populated area can threaten many lives and cause considerable damage.

During Friday evening, the severe weather threat including the potential for tornadoes is expected to extend from southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to eastern North Carolina and back into part of South Florida.

People are urged to remain vigilant and to follow extra precautions, especially after dark in this situation.

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The main threats in the upper mid-Atlantic, including New York City, and farther north will be from flash flooding and locally strong wind gusts at the same time.

Multiple threats from this severe weather outbreak

A tornado is not needed to threaten lives, knock trees into homes and cause power outages.

Far outweighing the number of tornadoes with this multiple-day outbreak has been incidents of straight-line wind damage, a trend that is expected to continue into Friday evening. Gusts in some of the thunderstorms can briefly approach hurricane-force (74 mph).

The combination of wet soil and winds this forceful can knock over weakly rooted trees. Large tree limbs can break regardless of soil conditions.

Flash flooding is also another serious concern with the storms.

The most concentrated areas of torrential rainfall along with the severe weather outbreak will be over central and southern Appalachians to the middle to upper part of the Atlantic coast into Friday night. Small stream and low-lying area flooding is a certainty.

Never attempt to drive across flooded roads as the road beneath may have been washed away or the water may be much deeper than it appears.

As is always the case with thunderstorms, there is the risk of a lightning strike at your location without notice. For this reason, people should move indoors and keep away from windows at the first rumble of thunder.

While fully enclosed metal, hard-top vehicles offer considerable protection from a lightning strike, golf carts, tents, picnic pavilions and beneath trees are dangerous places to seek refuge during a thunderstorm.

Following the severe weather outbreak into the start of the Easter weekend, a lull in severe weather is likely for at least a few days into next week across the nation.

Download the free AccuWeather app to stay alert to severe weather watches and warnings. Keep checking back for updates on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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