Severe thunderstorms and flash flood risks return to the south

Severe thunderstorms and flash flood risks return to the south

Heavy rain and gusty winds will impact outdoor plans as stormy weather returns in the south-central and southeastern part of the country during the first weekend of February.

A strong thunderstorm struck on the final day of a Voyager of the Seas cruise, sending deck chairs flying and causing flooding in some passengers’ cabins.

The relative calm the southern U.S. has enjoyed for most of this week is coming to an abrupt end with renewed heavy rain and severe thunderstorms for the first weekend of February, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

“As the storm moves east from the southern Plains into the Gulf Coast states through the end of the week, it will benefit from moisture from the Gulf of Mexico,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pedinowski said. “This will create a myriad of travel threats across the South.”

The same storm that brought a hose of rain, wind and snow to California this week will be the storm that impacts the South this weekend. It has already crossed the Southwest deserts and Rocky Mountains and brought damaging winds, hail and even a tornado to Texas late Friday into Friday night. Storm surge and flash flood risks are set to expand across the Mississippi Valley and Southeast over the weekend, ending a long stretch of dry weather.

AccuWeather meteorologists say millions more will have their plans affected by the weather coming Saturday and Sunday farther east, as the storm continues to gather moisture and work into the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys and eventually into much of the Southeast.

On Saturday, heavy rain could slow travelers on Interstate 10 heading through Louisiana, and locally heavy rain could extend into the far northern Ozarks as well, Pedinowski said. Little Rock, Memphis and New Orleans are among the metropolitan areas that will be the wettest to start the weekend.

Last week, this area was hit with frequent heavy rains that dumped a month’s worth of rain in just days, causing flooding that prompted water rescues and highway closures in Louisiana. There was also a silver lining; Long-term drought conditions were reversed and water levels dropped on the Mississippi River affecting trade.

Rainfall amounts are not expected to be heavy this time, as general rain is expected to fall between 1-3 inches, instead of the 5-10 inches that some areas witnessed last week. However, any rainfall could bring renewed flooding of all kinds, from poor drainage to streams and even larger rivers, over the next week.

By Sunday, there will be thunderstorm activity in parts of the central and eastern Gulf Coast, Florida, Alabama and Georgia, and AccuWeather warns that a slight increase in storm activity is possible, especially toward the Sunshine State.

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“There could be a greater risk of severe thunderstorms, with heavy rain and damaging winds, centered in parts of the Florida Peninsula on Sunday,” Pedinowski said. “This is because a separate, powerful piece of atmospheric energy will be moving east across the Gulf into Florida.”

Not only will this slow travel in the second half of the weekend along Interstate 4 from Tampa to Orlando, but it could also impact a major televised sporting event. “Fans heading to outdoor festivities around the All-Star Flag Football Game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando should prepare for wet weather,” Pedinowski added.

Farther north, across much of Alabama, Georgia and even parts of South Carolina, heavy rain will be a serious concern. Here, similar to areas farther west the day before, 1-3 inches of rain will be common through Sunday night.

By Monday, the storm will move offshore into the Atlantic Ocean. Other than some gusty winds and persistent rain along the southeast coast, drier, calmer weather will begin to return to the region again during the first full week of February.

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