A line of severe thunderstorms was expected to sweep across parts of the Midwest and the Mississippi Valley on Wednesday, raising the risk of tornadoes, flash floods and damaging winds, meteorologists said. The unsettling forecast comes a day after tornadoes ripped through Texas, injuring nearly two dozen people.
More than five million people were under a moderate risk for severe weather, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. The risk level, a four out of five, also included the cities of Little Rock, Ark.; Evansville, Ind.; and Memphis.
Several million more were under an enhanced and slight risk for storms, from Michigan and Wisconsin to as far south as Louisiana.
Meteorologists said the heaviest rainfall, capable of creating flash flooding, was likely from southeastern Louisiana to southern Michigan.
Around Little Rock, forecasters were expecting storms to begin in the afternoon and evening hours, producing hail the size of golf balls and winds up to 80 miles per hour. Periods of heavy rainfall were also expected to lead to local flooding, they said.
The Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of eastern Texas, southern and central Mississippi and northern Louisiana. Tornadoes, hail and damaging winds were likely in those areas. The tornado watch was in effect until 10 p.m. local time.
Parts of southwestern Kentucky were also under a tornado watch until 9 p.m. local time, the Weather Service said.
Meteorologists with the Weather Service in Memphis said they were expecting two rounds of storms on Wednesday, with heavy rain. Forecasters advised residents to start preparing early, as storms could spawn tornadoes with winds exceeding 150 m.p.h. A tornado watch was issued for western Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon and in effect until 9 p.m. local time, said Andrew Sniezak, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Memphis.
Portions of the United States have been under a relentless severe weather pattern this spring. On Tuesday, a cluster of storms swept through Central Texas, spawning tornadoes that injured at least 23 people, 12 of whom were taken to local hospitals, David Blackburn, a judge in Bell County, said in a news conference on Tuesday. He said it was amazing that there were no reports of fatalities.
“Lots and lots of debris,” Judge Blackburn said, describing the scene. “The path of the tornado, which again extends several miles, there’s not much left. Large trees uprooted, overturned, stripped. Buildings really reduced to rubble at many locations. Power lines, power polls scattered all over the place. It’s a pretty devastating look.”
At least one other tornado tore through Central Iowa, destroying property.
Last week, severe weather ripped across the South, killing two people, one in Georgia and one in Texas. And in late March, a powerful storm killed at least two people and injured two others in the Florida Panhandle.
A recent survey by Gallup found that 33 percent of U.S. adults said they had been affected by extreme weather since 2020. Extreme cold, hurricanes and winter weather, such as snow, ice storms and blizzards, were among the most common extreme weather events cited, followed by extreme heat and floods.
Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.