Return of severe weather to rock the South

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By Ryan Adamson, AccuWeather meteorologist & Nicole LoBiondo, AccuWeather meteorologist

Following the most recent rounds of tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail that occurred nearly two weeks ago, the South has had little in the way of severe weather. Unfortunately, AccuWeather forecasters expect that lull to come to an end.

The recent stretch of quiet weather will continue into Thursday. By Friday, an increase in humidity levels will occur in the southern Plains as moisture is drawn northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Other factors will also contribute to the risk for thunderstorms as well.

“Warm, moist air will flow from the Gulf of Mexico and collide with a warm front pushing through the southern Plains,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert. “This collision can have explosive results over portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi,” she added.

Thunderstorms are likely to develop near or just to the west of Interstate 35 Friday afternoon. This will place cities such as Oklahoma City and Dallas in the risk area.

“At this point, all manners of severe weather hazards look to be in play for Friday,” stated Gilbert.

As storms initially develop, individual thunderstorms will have the potential to rotate, and there will be a risk for isolated tornadoes. The threats will evolve as storms are likely to eventually become a more organized line.

“Damaging wind gusts, hail and downpours will be the most prevalent threats with any strong storm,” Gilbert said.

The threat will continue to progress eastward Friday night, allowing severe thunderstorms to target other areas such as Houston and Jackson, Mississippi.

Although the thunderstorms are expected to be fast-moving, rain may fall quickly and heavily enough to cause localized flooding. In the heaviest downpours, the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 8 inches could be achieved Friday into Saturday.

Those planning to travel Friday night must be extra cautious, as the depth of water is hard to gauge at night. Motorists should never cross a flooded roadway, day or night. When encountering a flooded area, turn around and find an alternate route.

“Those traveling at higher speeds across portions of interstates 10, 20 and 35 will need to reduce speeds during any downpours to prevent hydroplaning,” Gilbert said.

She explained that while flash flooding most often strikes low-lying and poor drainage areas first, no area is truly exempt from the risks of heavy downpours.

Thunderstorms will continue to move eastward Saturday. However, the areal coverage of severe weather is expected to be smaller than Friday and confined primarily to the Gulf Coast states. Areas from eastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, southern Georgia, the Florida Panhandle and into the Carolinas will be at risk for torrential downpours and gusty winds Saturday. This would include cities such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia; and Columbia, South Carolina.

The storms are not likely to reach coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas until Saturday evening.

The cold front will largely be offshore by Sunday, but a few thunderstorms may become locally gusty in central and southern Florida.