Tornadoes and heavy winds strike five states as storms continue into the Southeast

Tornadoes struck the Deep South after a line of storms moved through the region Wednesday, part of a system that is expected to continue further into the Southeast and the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday, leaving millions at risk from severe weather conditions.

At least 23 preliminary reports of tornadoes across five states were tracked Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, with the greatest storm damage apparent in Alabama and Mississippi.
A confirmed “large and extremely dangerous” tornado was spotted near Shelton State Community College just south of Tuscaloosa at 2:45 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama.
    At least 37 homes were damaged by storms in in the towns of Moundville and Akron in Alabama’s Hale County, according to county emergency manager Russ Weeden.
      Further east, at least a dozen areas of damage are being investigated in the Birmingham, Alabama area, according to the National Weather Service. In southwestern Alabama, two people were injured as their home was destroyed by the storm. Four other homes in the area were damaged.
        A possible tornado that touched down in Wayne County in Eastern Mississippi damaged two homes and left roads blocked due to debris, according to Angela Atchison of Wayne County Emergency Management. No injuries have been reported.
        The greatest threat of storms Thursday now shifts east to parts of the southeastern US, including Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
          A tornado struck in Moundville, Alabama, on March 17, 2021.

          Tens of millions under storm warnings

          An estimated 45 million people will be under threat for severe storms Thursday, from the Ohio Valley into South Florida, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Tornadoes, some of which may be intense, will be of concern along with damaging winds and large hail, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
          The worst of the severe weather pushes into the Carolinas and parts of parts of Central and Southern Georgia late morning. An elevated risk for strong tornado development exists for over 8 million from Southeast Georgia through the Carolinas into the northern Outer Banks.
          An area of greatest concern is the coastal area of the Carolinas that straddles the state line between North and South Carolina, and include Wilmington and Myrtle Beach.
          As the line of storms progress throughout the day there is the risk of gaining more energy and become more violent, according to Guy. Other locations that need to be on the lookout for stronger tornadoes Thursday include Raleigh/Durham, Savannah, GA and Columbia, SC.
          Another line of storms will develop in the late afternoon out of the Ohio Valley and Northern Kentucky and push into the Appalachians of West Virginia and Virginia. The system will not stay organized very long, but the potential for dangerous weather conditions will continue into the early evening, Guy said.
          The southern end of the line of storms will hit the Florida Panhandle and move into Central Florida through the early evening hours. Risk of strong winds, dangerous lightning, hail and tornadoes will continue into overnight hours.
          A roof of a home in northeast Lincoln County, Miss., is suspected of having been torn off by a tornado on March 17, 2021.

          Schools and vaccine centers prepare for storms

          The northern Georgia and metro Atlanta areas are anticipating storms in the morning, which has led Atlanta schools to move to online learning Thursday.
          “Due to the anticipated inclement weather overnight and in the morning, including the potential for heavy rains, damaging winds, and tornadoes, Atlanta Public Schools will observe virtual teaching and learning on Thursday, March 18,” the district announced late Wednesday.
            Covid-19 vaccine distribution has also been disrupted by the line of storms, with DeKalb County in metro Atlanta announcing its changes in schedules. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Mass Vaccination Sites plan to delay opening or alter its hours to avoid the severe weather.
            “Our first concern is the safety of the staff and patients at these outdoor sites,” said Chris Stallings, GEMA/HS Director. “We are asking for the public’s cooperation as we adjust the schedules, and want to assure those with an appointment that they will be rescheduled quickly if necessary.”

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