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Across the Deep South, extreme storms and tornadoes are likely.

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Across the Deep South, extreme storms and tornadoes are likely.
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Across the Deep South, extreme storms and tornadoes are likely.

Across the Deep South, extreme storms and tornadoes are likely.

 

After a wave of storms battered the area during the day Wednesday, leaving a trail of splintered trees and damaged houses, forecasters warned residents to take extra precautions overnight and into Thursday throughout the Deep South.

According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, scattered severe thunderstorms are forecast Thursday for parts of eastern Georgia, the Carolinas, and extreme southeast Virginia. Any and all serious dangers are probable. From southern Ohio to the central Appalachians, more isolated severe storms are likely.

According to the weather service, the greatest threat of tornadoes overnight remained over Alabama, but extreme storms and tornadoes were likely later in the day Thursday from east-central Georgia and northeast through South and North Carolina.

“From morning through afternoon, severe tornadoes, wind damage, and large hail are possible,” the center cautioned late Wednesday. “Severe thunderstorms will be likely from areas of the eastern Gulf Coast into the southern and central Appalachians,” according to the National Weather Service.

Residents in the area were urged to turn up the volume on their cellphones to hear emergency warnings during the night, according to the weather service.

There were no storm warnings in effect across metro Atlanta early Thursday, but the city was experiencing frequent lightning, heavy rain, and high wind gusts of up to 40-50 mph.

Morehouse College announced on Twitter that the campus would not open until 11 a.m., and that faculty and staff could not arrive until then. It stated that all classes prior to that point would be conducted remotely.

Although nearly 16 million people in the Southeast could be affected by powerful storms, an area of about 3 million people extending from southeastern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana through Mississippi and Alabama was at high risk for big twisters that lasted for miles, straight winds up to 80 mph (129 kph), and damaging hail, according to the prediction center.

The state Senate president in South Carolina warned senators to return to the state house on Thursday, asking workers to operate remotely for their safety. Speaker Jay Lucas said the House will meet for less than an hour on Thursday to take up procedural motions before a budget debate next week, and then adjourn.

“I’m asking you not to come if you’re in a situation where it’s dangerous for you to come,” Lucas said. “If you can come, send us a quorum, and do these few things, we’ll be out of here in no time.”

Almost the entire state of South Carolina is at risk of extreme storms. As a result of the forecast, a number of school districts across the state canceled in-person classes on Thursday and instead held virtual meetings for students and teachers.

In rural Chilton County and the Alabama towns of Burnsville and Moundville, where electricity was out and trees lined a main highway, possible tornadoes knocked down trees, overturned power lines, and destroyed homes on Wednesday.

Jimmy Baker, whose home was one of at least three demolished in Chilton, watched as the storm approached his home, according to WTVM-TV.

“Then we jumped… in the hall closet, a tiny, small closet, about a minute before it got here,” Baker said. “And it was only now that we heard it. You remember, the sound of the house collapsing to the ground. We had been rescued. He said, “We thank the Lord for that.”

“Downtown Moundville got it,” says the narrator. Michael Brown, whose family owns Moundville Ace Hardware and Building, said, “Some roofs and stuff got taken off homes.” “There are a lot of trees that have fallen. It had to be a tornado because it got out of here too quickly.”

Additional damage was recorded in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where video from Brookhaven revealed an apparent tornado. High winds toppled signs and trees in northeast Texas, and baseball-sized hail was recorded along the Alabama-Mississippi border, according to the weather service.

From Texas to Alabama, more than 70,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, and radar showed more storms moving through the area as cleanup work began.

Storms were predicted from northern Texas in the west to northern Illinois in the east, and the weather service released more than 50 tornado warnings in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, according to forecasters. Parts of seven states were under tornado alert.

Dozens of school systems in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi canceled classes, switched to online learning or dismissed students early, and Mississippi State University moved to virtual teaching because of the potential for danger at its campuses in Starkville and Meridian.

In Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, large vaccine clinics where hundreds of people would get vaccines without leaving their cars were canceled. State workers in Jackson, Mississippi’s capital, were advised to seek shelter in stairwells if weather sirens were heard. An outdoor event at an Amazon facility near Birmingham, where employees were voting on union representation, was cancelled by labor organizers.

Forecasters expected at least two rounds of storms, with the strongest not coming until after a cold front passes through overnight.

“The biggest concern is how heavy or extreme these storms will be, and whether or not they will be tornadic right away,” Gary Goggins, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, said Wednesday.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency, and people all over the South used social media to post the locations of tornado shelters. Hundreds of people gathered in a gymnasium in Tuscaloosa that had been turned into a shelter after a twister killed more than 50 people during a weather outbreak 10 years ago next month.

Residents seeking refuge in Jackson, Tennessee, would be able to use a civic center and the regional airport, according to officials.

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