The Storm Prediction Center says there is a high probability of tornadoes, a level 5 out of 5, in parts of the south. That is the worst and highest forecast outlook issued for severe storms. And while it is very rare for the SPC to issue this kind of perspective, it is now the second time in a week for the South.
The SPC warns of “several long-track tornadoes, destructive winds and very large hail forecasts from the Lower Mississippi Valley, east through parts of the southeast and north into the Tennessee and Ohio valleys.”
Some of the widespread winds will be “hurricane force,” the SPC said, while some areas may see hail the “size of a baseball.”
Long-track tornadoes are tornadoes that are on the ground for an extended period of time. Most tornadoes are on the ground for only a few minutes, but with some serious events, tornadoes can be on the ground for hours. This type of tornado is known to cause widespread damage.
More than a million people are under high threat from tornadoes, including in cities like Decatur and Madison in Alabama and Florence in Mississippi.
More than seven million people are in areas with moderate tornado threat, a level 4 out of 5, including Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee, Birmingham and Huntsville in Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi.
“The ingredients will be combined on Thursday for another outbreak of severe weather in the south,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. “The very humid air from the Gulf of Mexico combined with a strong upward motion will create multiple rounds of severe weather, including spinning storms that could produce tornadoes.”
The ingredients were there last week and tornadoes developed, but not as strong as meteorologists believed possible. None of the 49 tornadoes was stronger than an EF-2 on a scale of 0 to 5.
Although the correct atmospheric ingredients were present, they were not mixed accurately enough to produce the violent tornadoes that were forecast last Thursday.
“It’s like if you put too many carrots in chicken soup, you end up getting sweet carrot soup and not chicken soup,” Myers said.
The threat is greater this afternoon and evening
Severe storms will focus across the Deep South Thursday as the severe storm risk area is likely to expand and become more significant. Strong storms will be possible from the Gulf Coast north to Ohio.
A couple of stronger storms could be possible in this risk area Thursday morning, but the most active weather will begin in the afternoon, when several supercell storms could form.
“Right now, the best potential for strong tornadoes appears to be extending from parts of central / northern MS into west / mid TN and central / northern AL, primarily Thursday afternoon and evening as the storms they generally move to the northeast, “the SPC said Wednesday afternoon.
The forecast shows that atmospheric conditions will be mature and “will support supercells with low-level mesocyclones capable of producing strong tornadoes and large hail,” SPC said.
And it’s not just tornadoes: More than six million people were under flash flood watch early Thursday in parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. Rainfall of up to four inches is expected in the region, with higher amounts being recorded in some areas.
In the evening hours of Thursday, the storms are expected to turn into a line as it moves toward parts of Alabama and Georgia. By Friday, most of the south should dry out, except for parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, where weakened rains and isolated thunderstorms could persist.
School systems are changing plans due to the weather
School districts in the region are changing plans, dismissing students early, going online learning and canceling classes before severe weather Thursday.
In Alabama, Anniston city schools told parents via social media that students would have an e-day on Thursday. Gadsden City Schools announced they would be closing due to the storms.
Huntsville City Schools are dismissing students early. Tuscaloosa County Schools posted that they would have a system-wide remote learning day. Birmingham City Schools are also planning a full remote day for Thursday.
Demopolis City School and Limestone County school officials also announced plans to dismiss classes early.
“If for any reason students do not have electricity or Internet, they will be able to get work back,” school district officials posted on social media. “The domes on each campus will also be open tomorrow if someone needs shelter.”
CNN’s Robert Shackelford and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.