A rare “high risk” Level 5 of 5 alert has been issued for parts of the Midwest and Mid-South, affecting nearly 3 million people, the National Weather Service’s storm prediction center said Friday.
High-risk areas include parts of southeastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois and northeastern Missouri, and include places like Davenport, Iowa and Iowa City. The second area is further south and includes parts of eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southwestern Tennessee. Memphis, Tennessee, is included in the high-risk zone.
“Environmental conditions are quickly becoming favorable to support the potential for many strong to potentially violent, long-lasting tornadoes,” the center said.
High-risk days are extremely rare and are “booked when there is high confidence in widespread severe weather coverage with embedded instances of extreme weather events” such as severe tornadoes or extremely damaging winds, according to the center. of the storm.
The last Level 5 high-risk day occurred on March 25, 2021, when numerous tornadoes were reported in the Southeast.
Additionally, severe storms are expected to sweep through some central and southern states starting Friday afternoon, posing the threat of multiple strong tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds to nearly 90 million people in 21 states.
Tornado watches were issued for 15 million people, stretching from southern Arkansas to northern Iowa until 8:00 p.m. CDT and parts of northeast Texas, northwest Louisiana and southernmost Oklahoma until 9:00 p.m. CDT. Shreveport, Louisiana, and Tyler, Texas are included in the tornado watch.
These tornado watches have been called a “particularly dangerous situation” by the Storm Prediction Center.
A tornado watch is in effect for northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, southern Wisconsin and Lake Michigan until 10 p.m. CDT, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Storms developing this afternoon and evening are expected to produce a few intense tornadoes, damaging wind gusts to 70 mph and hail the size of golf balls.
Cities under watch include Chicago, Madison, Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinois.
And a tornado warning is in effect until 3 p.m. CDT which includes Peoria, Illionis, where a confirmed tornado will approach soon, according to the National Weather Service.
The prediction center warns of a few tornadoes, large hail and damaging wind gusts of up to 70 mph.
“Parameters are favorable for the potential for strong/violent tornadoes and very large hail,” the storm center said.
Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning
A moderate level 4 in 5 risk of severe storms extends from northern Mississippi to Iowa including Indianapolis, Indiana, Little Rock, Arkansas, Des Moines, Iowa and St. Louis.
Due to the tornado emergency, the National Weather Service located in North Little Rock evacuated to a tornado shelter. The NWS office in Memphis handles the broadcast of the warnings.
“At least a few strong to potentially violent long-tracked tornadoes are likely, particularly over portions of the mid-Mississippi Valley through south-central,” the Storm Prediction Center said. “Bands of intense and devastating gusts of wind as well as very large hail are also expected.”
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Some of the tornadoes may be EF-3 or higher, meaning they would have winds of at least 136 mph.
In total, the moderate risk zone covers 10 million people.
“We are concerned about strong tornadoes and widespread damaging winds,” Bill Bunting, chief of forecasting operations at the Storm Prediction Center, told CNN, noting that the storms would move quickly. “We tried to stress, don’t wait to see visual clues of the storm approaching, act when warnings are issued.”
“Residents are advised to stay alert to the weather and have multiple ways to receive weather alerts,” the Weather Prediction Center said. “In addition to the threat of severe weather, storms can also contain intense precipitation rates that could last long enough to produce isolated to scattered areas of flash flooding.”
The severe weather outbreak is expected to begin Friday afternoon and continue into the evening, forecasters said. Tornadoes or severe thunderstorms that occur at night have the greatest potential to be dangerous, as people are less likely to be warned in time if they are sleeping.
Last week, an overnight tornado leveled nearly the entire community of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where peak winds estimated at 170 mph blew. A total of at least 26 people were killed and dozens injured as the powerful storm system rolled through the southeast.
Meanwhile, on Friday, a slightly lower increased risk of severe storms, level 3 out of 5, is in place for areas such as Chicago, Nashville, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Louisville, Louisiana. The main threats are isolated long-track tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency ahead of severe weather heading into the state. The Kentuckians should be safe by 5:00 p.m. CST.
“It’s the worst forecast I’ve seen as governor,” Beshear said. “I’m declaring a state of emergency so we can prepare.”
A slight risk of Level 2 out of 5 severe storms extends into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and includes Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City, Missouri and Milwaukee.
There is also a marginal risk of severe storms, Level 1 in 5, stretching from northeast Texas to southern Minnesota and east to Michigan and West Virginia.
The cities under this alert are Dallas, Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta. The main threats are isolated tornadoes, high winds and isolated big hail.
Some of the areas still cleared from last week’s storms could face more severe weather on Friday, and forecasters are warning that conditions could be intense.
“Just because you missed last week’s worst storm doesn’t mean that fortune will hold on Friday,” Bunting said.
“We’ve seen these patterns before where there’s just a repeat of severe weather in generally the same area,” Bunting said. “We can’t change past results, but what we can do is encourage everyone to be ready for the next one.”
Bunting pointed out that having a plan before the storm hits could save your life.
“We just tried to encourage people to, if you don’t, have a severe weather plan. If you never thought you needed it, we are in an active state that will continue to be active next week, now is the time.