BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— More than 40,000 homes and businesses were left without power in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi after waves of tornadoes moved through the Deep South on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, large hail, wind damage and a tornado threat were expected Thursday mid-morning as far as Virginia and Florida, said the National Weather Service. That had forecasters advising residents in potential danger to keep monitoring conditions closely and be prepared to shelter immediately.
Scattered severe thunderstorms are expected Thursday for portions of eastern Georgia, through the Carolinas into extreme southeast Virginia, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. Other isolated severe storms are possible from southern Ohio into the central Appalachians, and from east-central Georgia and South and North Carolina later in the day.
The weather service advised residents throughout the region to keep the volume up on cellphones to hear emergency alerts throughout the night.
While an official count is yet to be released, there were reports of more than 20 tornadoes and damages to dozens of homes on Wednesday, according to the Weather Channel. Two people were also injured in Alabama.
Severe storms, tornadoes are moving through the South. People are sharing stunning images, videos.
The widespread severe weather forced many schools and state agencies in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to either close or shift to virtual learning attendance.
Large vaccination clinics where hundreds of people an hour can get shots without leaving their vehicles were also canceled in the region. In Mississippi, all coronavirus testing and vaccination sites were closed.
Early Thursday there were no storm warnings across the metro Atlanta area but intense lightning, heavy rain and strong wind gusts of up to 40-50 mph were moving through the area.
Morehouse College tweeted that it was delaying the opening of its campus until 11 a.m. and that faculty and staff should not arrive until after that time. All classes before then were to be held virtually, it said.
Some school districts in Georgia, including Atlanta, Cobb and Henry counties, have also opted for remote learning, according to the Weather Channel.
In South Carolina, the severe weather threat led the state Senate president to caution senators to state home Thursday while urging staff to work remotely for their safety. House Speaker Jay Lucas said that chamber would meet less than an hour Thursday to take up routine motions in advance of a budget debate next week — then adjourn.
“If you are in a situation where it is perilous that you come, I’m asking you not to come,” Lucas said. “If you can come, give us a quorum and do these few things we need to do, we will be out of here in a hurry.”
This wave of storms were described as a rare, “particularly dangerous situation” by the Storm Prediction Center, prompting it to issue a PDS tornado watch Wednesday due to the high chance of tornadoes in portions of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.
PDS watches are issued when there’s a heightened risk of strong or violent, long-track tornadoes, according to meteorologist Ray Hawthorne.
Also, earlier Wednesday, the center had also issued a Level 5, “high risk” warning for severe storms for portions of Mississippi and Alabama. That’s the highest level of risk for the severe storms that produce tornadoes.
This is the first time since 2012 that a high-risk warning has been issued in March, AccuWeather said.