Tornado outbreak hits Southeast, with new storms forecast Wednesday

WEATHER NEWS: Tornado outbreak hits Southeast, with new storms forecast Wednesday

A regional tornado outbreak struck the Southeast on Tuesday, with large and extremely dangerous twisters tearing up swaths of South Carolina. Numerous other twisters carved through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

At least one person died and several were injured in the outbreak, as the National Weather Service received more than 40 reports of tornadoes.

Many of the same areas slammed by storms Tuesday face the potential for more severe weather Wednesday: Eastern parts of Tennessee and Alabama, along with much of Georgia, are in a Level 3 out of 5 “enhanced risk” zone for severe thunderstorms, according to the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

“Severe thunderstorms capable of producing swaths of damaging gusts, large hail, and several tornadoes are expected across the Southeast States and near the southern Appalachians this afternoon and evening,” the Storm Prediction Center wrote Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Storm Prediction Center issued a tornado watch for central Georgia, including the southern part of Atlanta, until 10 p.m. It was also monitoring conditions to the northwest and south, where it may issue severe thunderstorm or tornado watches.

And there are signs that, despite a quiet weekend, a new flare-up of severe weather could affect the central United States toward the start of next week.

Deadly storms tear across Southeast, unleash damaging tornadoes

Recapping Tuesday’s storms

A swarm of severe thunderstorms developed amid a complex known as a mesoscale convective system, which progressed from Mississippi and Alabama during the morning and early afternoon into Georgia and South Carolina during the late afternoon and evening.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Allendale in the South Carolina Midlands, midway between Charleston, S.C., and Augusta, Ga. The town found itself under a dire “tornado emergency” around 3:57 p.m., with the National Weather Service warning of a “deadly” tornado capable of producing “catastrophic” damage. Debris was lofted more than 10,000 feet on the southeast side of town, which was heavily damaged by the twister.

Three people in Allendale suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Sycamore and neighboring Ehrhardt, to the east, were placed under a second tornado warning for a storm that followed the path of its predecessor, and then a third tornadic thunderstorm produced a tornado just north of Ehrhardt shortly after 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, a tornado plowed through Ellabell, Ga., about 20 miles west of Savannah, just after 5 p.m. One resident, at a golf club, stood outside as the tornado tore the roof off the building he had occupied.

The same tornado was captured crossing Interstate 16 near exit 143, Route 280, forcing motorists to stop before the looming funnel. Debris can be seen whirling around the base of the stovepipe vortex.

The tornado killed a woman in Pembroke, about six miles to the west, when it destroyed her mobile home.

It all comes after what may have been the most active March on record for tornadoes, with more than 200 touching down during the month. The average is 80.

Now, residents of the hardest-hit areas are bracing for another round of strong-to-severe thunderstorms.

2022 generated most March tornadoes on record in U.S.

  • Areas affected: The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has issued a Level 3 out of 5 enhanced risk for severe weather across much of the eastern Deep South and Southeast today. Much of Georgia falls within the enhanced zone, as does the majority of northern and eastern Alabama and eastern Tennessee. That includes the Georgia cities of Columbus and Atlanta; Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, Ala.; and Knoxville, Tenn. A less-severe but broader Level 2 risk stretches from northern Florida and the Florida Panhandle to Mobile, Ala., to southern Kentucky.
  • Hazards: A line of thunderstorms will form along a cold front shifting south and east with time. Damaging straight-line winds and a few isolated tornadoes may accompany the squall line. Ahead of the front, a batch of storms will form over east-central Alabama and western and central Georgia. Those may have a greater potential for individual updrafts that can tap into wind shear — a change of wind speed/direction with height in the atmosphere — and rotate. That would pose a threat of tornadoes.
  • Timing: The squall line will come together during the evening hours and be on Atlanta’s and Birmingham’s doorsteps by dark. The clumping of storms ahead of the line, however, will get going by 3 or 4 p.m.

Additional thunderstorms, some of which could be severe, are expected to reach the southern Mid-Atlantic and parts of Florida on Thursday. Storms capable of producing damaging winds and large hail are expected to be isolated, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

  • Areas affected: Although most storminess will have moved offshore, a cold front will be hung up in southeastern Virginia, eastern North Carolina and central parts of the Florida Panhandle. Virginia Beach, Wilmington, N.C., Orlando and Tampa are included in the zone to watch.
  • Hazards: A strong jet stream will make for momentum that thunderstorms can mix down to the surface in the form of damaging straight-line winds gusting to 60 mph. There’s a very low chance of an isolated tornado.
  • Timing: In the Mid-Atlantic, nonsevere thunderstorms may precede the front, sprouting in the warm, moist air draped northward in a narrow strip. Those would form during the morning into early afternoon. The threat of severe weather would be relegated to the late afternoon or the evening.

More hazardous weather early next week

Tranquil weather looks to build in across the Lower 48 as we head into the weekend — a well-deserved respite from the seemingly relentless severe weather that has plagued the country lately.

By Monday, attention will turn to a bowling ball upper-level low, or a lobe of high-altitude cold air, low pressure and spin, that will park itself over the Rockies. That disturbance, nestled within a dip in the jet stream, will provide an adequate trigger for strong-to-severe thunderstorms over the Plains.

At the surface, a dryline, or interface between arid air from the Desert Southwest and Gulf-moistened air from the Southeast, will sharpen parallel to Interstate 35 in North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That will be the focal mechanism for storms.

For Monday and Tuesday, it is unclear whether thunderstorms will be rotating supercells, but regardless, some danger of damaging straight-line winds, large hail and tornadoes is expected.

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