Southern states survey tornado damage as risk lingers
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornados wrought damage on the southeastern U.S. overnight, with officials warning of continued risk on Wednesday.
Driving the news: Tornado warnings were in effect through 6am Wednesday for central and western Alabama and southeastern Mississippi, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center.
- Winds of up to 70 mph and large hail up to 1.5 inches in diameter and intense tornados are possible, per the NOAA forecast.
- Severe thunderstorms "capable of producing scattered damaging winds and a tornado or two" could be seen across southwestern Georgia, extreme southeastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, according to the Storm Prediction Center's outlook.
- Parts of southern Mississippi could see minor flooding, according to a National Weather Service advisory.
- One tornado watch remains in effect until noon in southeast Alabama, southwest Georgia and the western and central Florida Panhandle.
Catch up quick: Preliminary data showed there were 36 tornado reports on Tuesday, though not all were confirmed, according to the Storm Prediction Center's storm report.
- A church steeple in Lowndes County, Mississippi, blew off, and the storm snapped power poles along a highway in Jefferson Davis County, per the storm report.
- Washington County, Alabama, saw trees and powerlines downed as well as "heavy damage" to homes.
- "Our Montgomery County and Flatwood Community suffered a devastating tornado strike just after 3:30 a.m. this morning. We have confirmed reports that our community has lost two lives from the overnight tornado," Christina Thornton, director of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency, told Axios in a statement.
- About 35,000 customers were without power around 9am on Wednesday in Alabama, as well as roughly 6,800 in Mississippi, according to the tracking website Poweroutage.us.
- Several parts of Alabama between Huntsville and Birmingham saw between 2 and 4 inches of rain Tuesday. Additional rainfall overnight may have pushed the total close to 5 inches, per NWS Birmingham.
- Mississippi State University’s Starkville campus announced Tuesday that afternoon classes would be moved to remote instruction, canceled other campus activities for the afternoon and evening and closed several campus buildings.
Our thought bubble, from Axios' Andrew Freedman: The tornado outbreak on Tuesday into Wednesday morning is an example of the fall secondary peak in the tornado season across the South.
- It illustrated the dangers of nighttime tornadoes, which can claim more lives because people may not receive warnings or may have a harder time getting to shelters.
- La Niña years such as this one tend to feature more severe weather in the South into winter than other years, due to prevailing weather patterns.