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Severe storms move into Southeast after unleashing tornadoes and life-threatening flooding along Gulf Coast

Gérald Herbert/AP

People inspect a badly damaged business in Slidell, Louisiana, after severe storms swept through Wednesday.


Potentially dangerous storms are poised to hit parts of the Southeast and Ohio Valley on Thursday, a day after deadly storms spawned devastating tornadoes and flash flooding from Texas to Mississippi.

Life-threatening flash flooding was reported early Thursday in the Tallahassee, Florida, area, where water was entering structures and rescue efforts were underway, according to the National Weather Service. A flash flood emergency has been issued for the area until 6:30 a.m.

“Major flash flooding is already occurring,” the Tallahassee Weather Service warned. “Move to higher ground now!” This is an extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area prone to flooding or under an evacuation order.

The punishing storm system is expected to lose strength on Thursday after reaching its peak on Wednesday. At least four tornadoes were reported in Louisiana and Texas, causing life-threatening flooding, widespread power outages and damage to homes and businesses in parts of the Gulf Coast.

So far, one person has been reported dead in Scott County in central Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday.

As storms move east Thursday, they will bring a slight risk (or level 2 of 5) of severe thunderstorms from Florida to South Carolina, the Storm Prediction Center said. The main threats will be damaging winds and torrential rain, but a tornado or two could also occur.

Although the severe threat is easing in the South, strong winds still gust across much of the region, where more than 30 million people are under wind advisories.

“Gusts of wind could blow around unsecured objects. Tree branches could be downed and some power outages could result,” the weather service warned.

Many homes and businesses are in the dark after the storm passed. About 260,000 people were without power from Texas to Georgia as of Wednesday evening, according to

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Farther north, there is a higher risk, Level 3 of 5, of severe thunderstorms over the Ohio Valley through Thursday afternoon and evening. These deluges could be even more violent than the storms in the south.

Multiple tornadoes and hail are possible in the highest risk area, which extends from western West Virginia to eastern Ohio. The surrounding area, including eastern Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania and Kentucky, could also experience strong storms, although the risk is less severe.

By Friday, the bulk of the severe storms will have left the coast, but there will still be a risk of flooding in parts of northern New England as storms move toward the Great Lakes and the interior from the northeast.

As storms bulldozed from Texas to Mississippi on Wednesday, they left damage and destruction in their wake.

At least 10 people were injured when an EF-1 tornado ripped through Slidell, Louisiana, police said. The storms left city roads dotted with trees and power lines and rising water levels prompted first responders to stage water rescues, Slidell police spokesman Daniel Seuzeneau said. .

Tornadoes also occurred in Saint Francisville and around Lake Charles, Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

Another EF-1 tornado struck some businesses in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas. No injuries were reported Wednesday, but the storm damaged a shopping center and a nearby auto repair shop, said Jeffry Evans, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Images show much of the businesses roof collapsed in the parking lot and surrounded by rubble and metal debris.

Gérald Herbert/AP

A firefighter clears debris left by storms in Slidell, Louisiana.

Across Mississippi, more than 70 homes were reported damaged or destroyed, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday.

Torrential downpours also triggered dangerous flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana, where authorities rushed to carry out water rescues as roads turned into rivers.

In New Orleans, water poured into streets as unusually heavy rains overwhelmed the complex network of water pumps and other aging flood mitigation infrastructure, the Water and Safety Authority said. city ​​sewers.

New Orleans experienced one of several daily rainfall records broken across the South on Wednesday. The city’s Louis Armstrong International Airport received 6.44 inches, almost triple its previous record.

Authorities in Louisiana had prepared for the storm’s arrival, closing nearly a dozen school districts and several state offices and municipal buildings on Wednesday.

Disruptions spread even further east as the storm moved toward Alabama and Georgia, where the Masters delayed opening its gates at Augusta National Golf Course on Wednesday.

CNN’s Taylor Ward, Mary Gilbert, Caroll Alvarado, Sara Smart, Rachel Ramirez, Jacob Lev, Rosa Flores, Sara Weisfeldt, Devon Sayers and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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