A three-day severe storm system that brought hail, high winds and some tornadoes to the Kansas-Texas corridor moved slowly eastward into the Deep South on Thursday, threatening more violent weather on its way to the Atlantic coast.
The National Weather Service warns of several possible tornadoes and extensive wind damage across the central Gulf Coast states, South and Tennessee Valley — especially in Louisiana and Mississippi. Excessive rain is possible from the central Gulf Coast to the Ohio Valley.
The weather service issued a series of tornado warnings as the system pushed across Louisiana, where strong storms covered much of the state.
A tornado watch reached from coastal Louisiana into central Mississippi and flood warnings reached as far north as central Indiana.
In Mississippi and Alabama, dozens of schools dismissed students early as a precaution.
The system was expected to reach the East by Friday morning, and storms would intensify from Florida through the Mid-Atlantic by the afternoon, the weather service said.
While fears of massive hail and numerous tornadoes failed to materialize across North Texas overnight, seven tornadoes were reported across the Plains from the northeastern Texas Panhandle to southeastern Kansas.
One twister was reported near Glazier, Texas, late Wednesday afternoon and the NWS said a second tornado was spotted by radar over Higgins, Texas.
Two semi-trailer trucks were blown over on Interstate 35 in north central Oklahoma near the Kansas border, The Weather Channel reports.
Hail as large as 3 inches in diameter was reported late Wednesday in Selman, Okla. while areas of the eastern Texas Panhandle saw hail up to 2 inches. Up to an inch of quarter-sized hail was reported in Goodnight, Texas, according to the weather service.
Strong winds also toppled utility poles, trees and power lines in parts of Texas, knocking out power to over 110,000 customers, mostly in East Texas, according to poweroutage.us. Several thousand more were hit across Missouri and Arkansas, AccuWeather reports.
Damaging winds offer the biggest threat from the Florida Peninsula to the Mid-Atlantic. "The most likely area for tornadoes may be close to the Carolina coast, where a breeze from the Atlantic Ocean may impart extra spin in the low levels of the atmosphere," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
The storm promises no let-up as it churns across the Deep South. "The greatest risk of severe weather is in the Gulf Coast states today, and in the Southeast Atlantic
Coast states from Virginia to Florida on Friday," the weather service says. The main threat on Thursday, the NWS says, will be damaging wind gusts and several tornadoes.
The thunderstorms and heavy rain also pose a risk of flash flooding over much of the eastern half of the U.S., from the northern border with Canada south to Georgia, in the next two days.