Severe storms move into Southeast after unleashing tornadoes and life-threatening flooding along Gulf Coast

Severe storms move into Southeast after unleashing tornadoes and life-threatening flooding along Gulf Coast


Gerald Herbert/AP

People survey a severely damaged business Slidell, Louisiana, after severe storms swept through on Wednesday.


Potentially dangerous storms are poised to hit parts of the Southeast and the Ohio Valley on Thursday, a day after deadly storms spawned damaging tornadoes and flash flood emergencies from Texas to Mississippi.

Life-threatening flash flooding was reported early Thursday in the Tallahassee, Florida, area, where water was entering structures and rescues were underway, according to the National Weather Service. A flash flood emergency was issued for the area until 6:30 a.m.

“Major flash flooding is already occurring,” the weather service in Tallahassee warned. “Move to higher ground now! This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.”

The punishing storm system is expected to lose potency Thursday after reaching its peak Wednesday. At least four tornadoes were reported in Louisiana and Texas as the storms caused life-threatening flooding, widespread power outages and damage to homes and businesses across parts of the Gulf Coast.

So far, one person has been reported dead in central Mississippi’s Scott County, Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday.

As the storms shift east on Thursday, they will bring a slight (or level 2 of 5) risk of severe thunderstorms from Florida to South Carolina, the Storm Prediction Center said. The main threats will be damaging winds and drenching rain, but a tornado or two could also arise.

Though the severe threat is diminishing across the South, strong winds are still gusting through much of the region, where more than 30 million people are under wind advisories.

“Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result,” the weather service warned.

Swaths of homes and businesses are in the dark after the storm barreled through. Around 260,000 were without power from Texas to Georgia as of late Wednesday night, according to

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Farther north, there’s a higher, level 3 of 5, risk of severe thunderstorms over the Ohio Valley through Thursday afternoon and evening. These deluges could pack an even bigger punch than the storms down south.

Multiple tornadoes and hail are possible in the most at-risk area, which extends from western West Virginia across eastern Ohio. The surrounding area, including eastern Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania and Kentucky, could also see strong storms, though the risk is less severe.

By Friday, the bulk of the severe storms will have moved off the coast, but there will still be some risk of flooding in parts of northern New England as storms shift through the Great Lakes and interior Northeast.

As the storms bulldozed from Texas to Mississippi Wednesday, they left damage and destruction in their wake.

At least 10 people were injured when an EF-1 tornado ripped through Slidell, Louisiana, police said. Storms left city roads scattered with trees and power lines and rising water levels prompted first responders to organize water rescues, Slidell police spokesperson Daniel Seuzeneau said.

Tornadoes also churned up in Saint Francisville and around Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

Another EF-1 tornado struck a stretch of businesses in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas. No injuries were reported Wednesday, but the storm damaged a strip mall and a neighboring car repair shop, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeffry Evans. Images show a large portion of the businesses’ roof collapsed into the parking lot and surrounded by rubble and metal debris.

Gerald Herbert/AP

A firefighter clears debris left in the aftermath of storms in Slidell, Louisiana.

Across Mississippi, more than 70 homes have been reported damaged or destroyed, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday.

Torrential downpours also triggered treacherous flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana, where officials rushed to perform water rescues as roads turned to rivers.

In New Orleans, water spilled into the streets as exceptional rainfall overwhelmed the city’s complex network of water pumps and other aging flood-mitigating infrastructure, the city’s Sewerage and Water Board said.

New Orleans saw one of several daily rainfall records that were broken across the South on Wednesday. The city’s Louis Armstrong International Airport received 6.44 inches – almost triple its previous record.

Authorities in Louisiana had braced for the storm’s arrival, closing nearly a dozen school districts and several state offices and city buildings on Wednesday.

The disruptions stretched even farther east as the storm shifted into Alabama and Georgia, where the Masters delayed its gate opening at the Augusta National Golf Course on Wednesday.

CNN’s Taylor Ward, Mary Gilbert, Caroll Alvarado, Sara Smart, Rachel Ramirez, Jacob Lev, Rosa Flores, Sara Weisfeldt, Devon Sayers and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.


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