High risk for severe weather issued for second time in March across southeast

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – For the second time in about a week the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a HIGH risk for severe weather that includes the potential for large hail, damaging winds, and several strong, long-track tornadoes for northern Mississippi and Alabama, and southern Tennessee for today and tonight. 

Strong storms and the risk for severe weather will continue through late afternoon and early this evening across the southeast states, all of which include the risk for large, destructive tornadoes.

Stay up to date with the latest threat and updates with severe weather across the southeast U.S. HERE.

A Tornado Watch was issued for portions of western and northern Alabama, northwest Georgia, central and eastern Mississippi, and south central Tennessee in particular until 8 PM Thursday night for this risk. Southern Illinois and Indiana, as well as western and central Kentucky and Tennessee are included in a watch as well. This means the areas highlighted in red below contains conditions favorable for the development of strong, long track tornadoes through tonight.

The SPC has called this a particularly dangerous situation as numerous, strong tornadoes are expected along with widespread damaging winds up to 80 mph, and hail up to the size of baseballs likely. A favorable environment for strong storms to develop will continue through tonight with multiple rounds of storms expected, which is why the watch was issued.

Below is a glimpse of one of the very large and destructive tornadoes to move through a portion of Alabama earlier this evening on radar. The top part shows reflectivity, or how heavy the precipitation is falling. The bottom part shows correlation coefficient. We use this to see if the tornado is producing any debris that’s being lifted into the air, and can be a very helpful tool when figuring out if a tornado is producing any damage, and where exactly the tornado is located.

You can see a very large, clear debris ball signature floating along shown by the blue and gray colors within the red tornado polygon above. You can see just by this particular event that these storms have the potential to be large and are expected to keep producing devastating damage as long as they are on the ground and keep occurring through the evening hours.

Discussion

A strong upper level disturbance will cut through the midwestern U.S. Thursday providing all the right ingredients for severe storms and tornadoes throughout the course of the day. A warm front draping across northern Louisiana, central Mississippi and southwest Alabama will provide enough warm, moist air and lift as it continues to moves into the Tennessee Valley. As this storm system deepens it will drag an additional cold front through the southeast states that will continue to support a favorable environment for multiple large and dangerous tornadoes. When the SPC discusses strong and violent tornadoes such as the ones expected today, it means tornadoes ranging from EF-3 and above could produce extensive and devastating damage to homes and property.

Main Threats

  • Strong, damaging winds up to hurricane force possible
  • Violent, long-track tornadoes 
  • Large hail up to baseball sized (2.5″) in diameter
  • Heavy rain and flash flooding

Note: This threat is NOT limited to the areas shaded just within the high risk, but also include all areas highlighted anywhere from a marginal, slight, enhanced and up to moderate risk.

This same system is set to impact our region on Friday, the main threat being strong, and potentially damaging winds.

Remember…

A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for a tornado to occur. A tornado warning means a tornado is on the ground, or there is enough rotation indicated on radar for one to occur at any point in time during the warning.

If a tornado warning is issued for your area take shelter immediately. Get somewhere safe such as a low lying area inside a sturdy building, away from windows. If you have any friends or family located across these areas, make sure they’re up to date with the latest information and have their safety plan in place.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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