This weekend, severe weather poses a risk in several southern United States. This comes after deadly storms recently damaged Texas, Florida, and Mississippi. The Storm Prediction Center has pinpointed the areas most in danger as central Oklahoma, southern Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle, including Perryton (recently struck by an EF-3 tornado), as the focal points of the enhanced risk.
There is a chance of a few tornadoes from southeast Colorado to northwest Arkansas, and the raindrops may be as big as golf balls. The winds may reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. It is advised to be careful during evenings and late afternoons because most of these storms will likely happen at this time.
The lower Mississippi River Valley, including most of Mississippi and northern Louisiana, will be especially prone to these storms on Sunday. This heightened risk is most evident in the early morning hours when storms from the previous night travel eastward. A new sequence of storms is expected to form on Sunday afternoon and spread towards the Florida Panhandle.
High speed winds, huge raindrops, and perhaps a few isolated tornadoes are predicted to accompany these storms. The intense rains associated with these storms may also cause localized flash floods, especially in the southern United States and the northern and central parts of Florida, including the Florida Panhandle.
On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued an advisory for more than 40 million people, mostly in southern Louisiana, central and southern Texas, and south Florida. On Thursday, a catastrophic tornado ripped through Perryton, Texas, taking the lives of three people, including an infant.
The storm caused a significant number of injuries, with up to 100 individuals from the Panhandle town being hospitalized due to a range of injuries, including head injuries and abrasions, as reported by the interim CEO of Ochiltree General Hospital. Among the victims was an 11-year-old boy who was discovered deceased in his neighborhood, which was directly impacted by the tornado in Texas.
In Mississippi, severe weather during the night resulted in one fatality, as stated in a release by the Mississippi Department of Emergency Management. Preliminary reports indicate that over 70 homes have suffered damage from the adverse weather conditions.
An Escambia County resident died after being trapped beneath a falling tree that hit their house. The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, stated that local rescuers performed high-water rescues overnight in the county, which includes Pensacola.
According to the Escambia County Emergency Management, West Pensacola, Warrington, and Gulf Breeze were hit by “widespread and significant” flash flooding.
Emergency personnel report water entering multiple buildings from waterlogged highways. According to county officials, approximately 150 Pensacola apartment residents were moved to a community center due to increasing water levels.
Warrington, south of Pensacola, experienced approximately a foot of rain in three hours. There was an increase in the total to 16 inches of overnight precipitation as shown by RADAR, with more expected on Friday. Flash flood warnings are in force until 7 p.m.
The South, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern Plains have a modest risk level of 2 of 5 for storms after Thursday’s severe weather. Montgomery, Mobile, Little Rock, Jackson, and Tallahassee in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida are at negligible risk for massive hail, destructive winds, and tornadoes.
A marginal risk level 1 out of 5 extends from South Dakota to Florida and encompasses portions of the Mid-Atlantic. Cities within this marginal risk area, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Denver, and Jacksonville in Florida, have the potential for large hail and damaging winds.
According to initial findings from the NWS, the devastating tornado that swept through Perryton has been classified as an EF3 with estimated peak winds reaching 140 mph. The tornado was active for approximately 11 minutes and covered a distance of over six miles.
The impact of the tornado caused extensive damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure in the town, which is home to around 8,000 residents. The local fire department, EMS, and several mobile homes were among the structures affected. Many trucks belonging to the fire department were also damaged, as mentioned by Dutcher.
Residents of Perryton, like Jamie James, recounted their harrowing experiences. Jamie James mentioned that the tornado suddenly formed without any warning. The absence of sirens and insufficient time to reach a shelter left people unprepared. James had to endure the storm while taking shelter in her truck. She vividly described the chaotic scene during the tornado, with dumpsters being lifted into the air and hailstones relentlessly striking her vehicle.
She expressed the fear and uncertainty she felt during the ordeal, acknowledging that at one point, she thought her life was in danger. The intense winds and flying debris created a sense of chaos and perilous conditions.