Severe weather including tornadoes, hail and damaging wind gusts hit parts of the South on Tuesday, threatening an estimated 11 million people in nine states. Thunderstorms raged in the area, and the National Weather Service confirmed more than 20 tornadoes across the area.
Just after 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday, the NWS advise local residents from Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, to take cover for a “probably destructive tornado on the ground now.” At least two people were injured in the reported tornado attack that destroyed several homes.
In Steens, Mississippi, a nighttime tornado tore trees from their roots and left homes in ruins. And in Lowndes County, a fire department wasn’t spared. It was hit, tearing off the roof.
A heavy downpour also hit Starkville, Mississippi overnight. Police and first responders blocked a rain-soaked street in the eastern part of the state, where several shoppers were temporarily trapped inside a damaged grocery store, county officials said.
The storm began early Tuesday afternoon and was expected to continue into the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to the NWS Storm Prediction Center.
There were no immediate reports of deaths.
Video posted to social media Tuesday afternoon showed fierce gusts of wind and hail battering the northwest Alabama town of Muscle Shoals, while thunderstorms drenched the Morgan County area of north-central Alabama. Video also shown fallen trees in the town of Eutaw in west-central Alabama. The NWS reported the storm that hit the Eutaw area “created a tornado debris signature”.
The National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Alabama, confirmed early Wednesday morning that a Twister had landed near the border between Montgomery and Elmore counties, urging people near Boylston to “take cover immediately!”
In Memphis, Tennessee, police and crew were busy all night. Heavy rain caused enough accidents to contaminate highways and roads. Several of the accidents were caused by slippery roads and aquaplaning.
Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes said Tuesday night there was “a high risk of some flooding in the South,” including cities like Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. Bettes added that the cities of Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery in Nashville, Tennessee and Alabama could also be badly hit by the storm.
The cause of the storm was a cold front, according to Mike Chesterfield, director of weather presentations at The Weather Channel.
“A strong cold front will sweep eastward into warm, humid air tonight, helping create numerous rounds of severe thunderstorms,” he said. “The threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is compounded by winds that rotate with altitude, along with strong jet stream energy moving overhead.”
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency had used his Twitter account on Tuesday to warn residents to prepare for power outages and stay off the streets if possible.
Manuel Bojorquez contributed to this report from Eutaw, Alabama