Severe storms ramp up in the South Wednesday, threatening strong tornadoes and flash floods

Severe storms ramp up in the South Wednesday, threatening strong tornadoes and flash floods



Severe storms are battering parts of the South with torrential rains and damaging winds, threatening tornadoes and creating dangerous flooding.

Crews were responding to “10 to 15 high-water rescues” in the eastern Texas city of Kirbyville early Wednesday, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said, and flooding damage was reported in homes and businesses.

A flash flood emergency was issued in Kirbyville after the Pin Oak Creek rose 10 feet in six hours overnight as heavy rain and thunderstorms pummeled the region, the National Weather Service said.

Between 5 and 8 inches of rain has already fallen in the area and up to 3 more inches are possible, according to the weather service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Overall, more than 30 million people across the Southeast are under a severe storm threat Wednesday, while flood watches are in effect for over 13 million people from Texas to Georgia amid heavy downpours, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

There have already been reports of baseball-sized hail and fierce winds across the region, including a report of wind gusts at 88 mph in Texas, according to the weather service.

One tornado hit around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city of Raymond, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Jackson – and more tornadoes could be on the way.

“To repeat, a tornado is on the ground. TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building,” the weather service warned. “Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.”

The severe storm threat will ramp up beginning Wednesday morning as the threat shifts east, bringing with it an increased risk of strong tornadoes spawning.

“Widespread severe thunderstorms are forecast across parts of the central Gulf Coast States. The potential will exist for several tornadoes, a few of which may be strong (EF2+), and widespread damaging winds, some of which may be particularly damaging,” the prediction center warned.

A level 4 of 5 severe weather threat stretches from eastern Louisiana to western Alabama and includes Baton Rouge and Jackson. Meanwhile, there’s a level 3 of 5 severe threat from western Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, including New Orleans, Montgomery, Mobile and Panama City.

Other areas in the South are less at risk for severe storms but could still be impacted. A lower, level 2 of 5, severe weather threat stretches from eastern Texas to southwestern Georgia, including Birmingham, Alabama; Shreveport, Louisiana; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Georgia. The main threats are large hail, damaging wind gusts and a few tornadoes.

As storms swirl across the South, nearly 130,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi were without power early Wednesday, according to, and more could soon be left in the dark.

Along with the severe storm threat, there remains a threat for very heavy rainfall Wednesday for much of the South, which could cause flash flooding and widespread hazardous travel conditions for residents. Flash flood warnings have been ongoing across parts of eastern Texas, northern Louisiana and far western Mississippi, where 3 to 6 inches of rainfall have fallen across much of the area, isolated totals could even exceed 6 inches.

From Texas to Georgia, flood watches remain in effect until Wednesday evening. The heaviest rainfall spreads from northeastern Louisiana to southwestern Georgia, where at least 4 to 8 inches of rainfall is possible.

Flash flooding is weather’s No. 2 killer, claiming more lives than anything but heat. It can happen when storms roll over the same areas for hours, with intense rain falling faster than the soil can absorb.

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A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for southeastern Texas and Coastal Waters until 8 a.m. ET. Gusts to 85 mph, large hail of 2 inches and a tornado or two are possible.

Travelers have already felt the impacts of severe weather in the region, with 200 flight delays into and out of Austin Bergstrom Airport.

Ahead of the crux of severe weather on Wednesday, widespread closures have been announced and state officials have deployed resources to minimize impacts from the storms.

In Louisiana, at least 11 school districts will be closed on Wednesday as storms sweep through the state, including Ascension Parish Public Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish schools and the St. Helena Parish school district. Classes at Southeastern Louisiana University will be remote for Wednesday, the university announced. About 47 miles to the west, Louisiana State University announced classes will be held online Wednesday.

State offices and city buildings in Louisiana will be closed as well on Wednesday, including New Orleans City Hall and the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. Officials in Shreveport also handed out sandbags to residents in preparation for the weather.

“In light of recent weather forecasts indicating increased precipitation and potential flood risks in our area, the Mayor urges residents to take necessary precautions to protect their homes and properties,” the city of Shreveport said in a news release.

As for neighboring Mississippi, more than 100,000 sandbags have been handed out to residents. Gov. Tate Reeves encouraged residents to be aware of the incoming threat and to have emergency alerts on in preparation.

“Please be careful and cautious if you’re driving, and never drive through flood areas,” Reeves said in a Facebook post.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this week directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to provide resources to communities ahead of severe weather impacting the state. On Tuesday, the governor said he asked officials to deploy additional resources in response to severe thunderstorms and potential flash floods.

Parts of Texas have already been hit with significant rainfall as severe weather continues in the state.

“Texans are urged to monitor weather forecasts and heed guidance from emergency officials,” the governor said in a post on X.

CNN’s Sara Smart and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.


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