Severe weather ripped through Texas, Louisiana and Alabama Wednesday, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power, and a “major severe weather outbreak” is expected to remain a risk over the next two days.
The National Weather Service warned of possible nighttime flooding and tornados and urged residents to make safety plans well before warnings were issued.
The tornado threat is especially large in the stretch between southeastern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana, through Mississippi and into Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey announced a state of emergency.
“A significant tornado outbreak is expected with numerous strong and a few long-track, potentially violent tornadoes,” the Weather Service warned.
Nearly all of Mississippi were under tornado watches Wednesday evening, as well as portions of southeast Louisiana, northern and eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee.
In all, the weather service issued more than 50 tornado warnings in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Tornado watches included parts of seven states.
Forecasters also warned of potential tennis ball-sized hail.
The foul forecast prompted dozens of school districts to cancel classes or revert to remote learning, and thousands of people saw their coronavirus vaccine appointments canceled.
Flash flood watches were issued across much of Missouri, southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.
The weather has already torn through a number of Alabama communities, downing trees and power lines and blocking roads.
Photographs show toppled power lines, flattened homes, shattered windows and flipped RVs.
Chuck Folts, an RV mechanic in Moundville, Ala., told the Associated Press he hunkered down in his workshop as a tornado ripped the roof off above him.
The severe weather is expected to reach eastern Georgia and the Carolinas Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.