Dangerous thunderstorms erupted across parts of the South Monday afternoon as more than 20 million people from East Texas to the Southeast face the threat of damaging winds, hail and even potentially strong tornadoes.
Severe thunderstorms will blow across eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley through Monday evening before moving toward Alabama overnight.
A tornado watch was issued Monday afternoon for an area including nearly 3 million people in eastern Texas, Louisiana and southern Arkansas. Tornado warnings quickly followed as dangerous storms arose in Louisiana.
An increased risk level for severe storms, or Level 3 of 5, is in effect Monday for parts of east Texas, north Louisiana and central Mississippi, including Jackson, Miss., and Alexandria , Louisiana, the Storm Prediction Center said. The greatest risk of strong tornadoes capable of producing wind speeds in excess of 110 mph – EF2 strength or greater – is in this region.
Serious Level 1 and 2 threats exist from Texas to Alabama and Arkansas, including Houston and Little Rock, Arkansas. Tornadoes are also possible in these risk areas.
Tornado warnings had not been issued across much of the Southeast since late June, but that changed Monday afternoon. November marks the start of a second severe weather season in the region. The clash of cold Canadian air piercing the South and warm, humid air lingering over the Gulf of Mexico typically results in an increase in damaging thunderstorms from November to December.
The storms could bring a brief respite to drought-stricken Louisiana and Mississippi, which could see excess rainfall of up to 2 inches Monday and up to 3 inches in some areas, according to the Weather Prediction Center.
Louisiana is suffering the worst drought on record – a drought that has fueled unprecedented wildfires and contributed to potentially catastrophic saltwater intrusion into the Mississippi River. Exceptional drought — the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most extreme category — now covers nearly three-quarters of the state, according to data released last week. In neighboring Mississippi, an exceptional drought has spread to more than half the state.
The same storm, unleashing severe thunderstorms to the south, blew through the Rockies over the weekend, leaving heavy snowfall in the mountains accumulating nearly a foot high in several areas of Utah , Nevada and Colorado, according to preliminary snow reports.
Parts of Utah saw at least a foot of snow, followed closely by some cities in Nevada.
Here are some of the latest preliminary snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service:
- Alta and Collins, Utah, area: 13 inches
- Snowbird, Utah: 12 inches
- Pole Canyon, Nevada: 11 inches
- Green Mountain, Nevada: 11 inches
- Monte Rosa Ski Base, Nevada: 10 inches
- Mount Crested Butte, Colorado: 7 inches
- Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, California: 7 inches
Lower elevations were still warm enough to receive precipitation, with storm totals of 1 to 3 inches reported and isolated totals exceeding 3 inches.
Strong wind gusts also swept through the region, with a gust of 144 mph reported in Mammoth, California, which has an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet.