Close to 60 million at risk of severe weather in southern US on Thursday

The risk of severe thunderstorms, some capable of triggering tornadoes, will reach across much of the southern United States, as well as part of the mid-Atlantic region through Thursday, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

While the intensity of the thunderstorms may not be as ferocious as many that erupted in the Midwest and Great Plains earlier in the week, there is still the likelihood that some of the strongest storms will be capable of producing a few tornadoes. Approximately 60 million people live within the anticipated zone of severe weather through Thursday night.

The tally of filtered severe weather incidents, as reported by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) from Monday through early Thursday afternoon, had reached 1,078, of which there were 95 reports of tornadoes. There were at least 454 incidents of severe weather on Wednesday alone, making it the biggest day for severe weather of the entire outbreak.

All it takes is one brief tornado to strike a populated area, which leads to great risks to lives and property. And, like most prior days this week, there is the potential for multiple tornadoes to occur. With each passing day, the storms have pushed into progressively more densely populated areas, and that trend will continue prior to the end of the week.

"The main threats from the thunderstorms in the East will be high winds and hail," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.

A wedge of cool air will protect areas from Boston to New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburgh areas from severe weather into Thursday night. Washington, D.C., will be on the edge of the cool air influence. The cool air will occupy the lower part of the atmosphere, so any thunderstorms and high winds will be forced to occur several thousand feet up and not at ground level.

The major metro areas and the airport hubs most likely to be affected by severe weather include Richmond, Virginia; Montgomery, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Dallas. As storms develop over or approach these areas and many regional secondary hubs, ground stops can lead to lengthy airline delays and possible flight cancellations.

"It has been nearly a month since much of Virginia had severe storms," Douty said, "April 15 was the last day with widespread wind and hail in the state and the mid-Atlantic region in general."

Thursday will be an active day with severe weather from Virginia to Florida and Texas.

One cluster of thunderstorms, leftover from storms that rocked the Tennessee Valley on Wednesday night, will push from southern Georgia to northeastern Florida into Thursday evening. These storms will pack strong wind gusts, frequent lightning, torrential downpours and some hail. A few of the strongest storms in this cluster could produce a tornado.

Forecasters are particularly concerned about a cluster of thunderstorms that will race eastward across the South on Thursday night. These storms will likely have large hail, damaging wind gusts and localized flash flooding. However, a few of the strongest storms can produce tornadoes from north-central Texas to western Louisiana into Thursday evening.

As the storms erupt, downpours alone can lead to substantial travel delays. Motorists should be alert for changing weather conditions, including rapidly rising water on some area streets, highways and underpasses.


The likelihood of severe weather will continue to progress southeastward on Friday. To close out the workweek for millions of Americans, the severe weather will focus on an area from southern Alabama, central Georgia and the coastal areas of the Carolinas to northern and central Florida.

If the overnight cluster of storms continues to move along, the severe weather threat may end by midday in much of this zone, except for perhaps central Florida.The main threats will be from storms packing high winds and hail. Some of the strongest storms may also trigger tornadoes or waterspouts.

People spending time on area beaches and the central Florida theme parks should be alert to rapidly changing weather conditions during the afternoon and evening.

Farther to the north, a potent storm system will race southeastward from Canada and into the Great Lakes region on Friday and then swing into the Northeast this weekend.

"This system is likely to produce some locally gusty thunderstorms with small hail, but widespread damaging winds and hail are not likely," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

The system will drop quickly across the Midwest from Friday to Saturday then slow down as it pivots across the Northeast on Saturday and Sunday, where it is most likely to spoil many outdoor plans for Mother's Day weekend.

The small disturbance will mark a change in the weather pattern, with massive multiday severe weather outbreaks taking an extended break over much of the Central states.

However, trouble in the form of torrential downpours and drenching thunderstorms will set up along much of the Gulf Coast states, especially in Texas and Louisiana, from later in the weekend to the middle of next week.

Enough rain may fall to renew flooding in Texas and trigger new flooding elsewhere in parts of the Interstate 10 corridor.

Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.