Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dangerous outbreak of severe weather forecast for parts of South

   A rare and dangerous outbreak of severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes could erupt Tuesday afternoon across parts of the South, from northeast Texas into parts of Mississippi and Tennessee, the National Weather Service said.
A "high-risk" area for severe thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon and into Tuesday night includes northeast Texas; far southeast Oklahoma; extreme northwestern Louisiana; and the southern half of Arkansas, according to the Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Later Tuesday, the high-risk area was extended across the Mississippi River and into northwestern Mississippi and southeastern Tennessee, including the city of Memphis.
"An outbreak of severe thunderstorms including strong tornadoes and widespread damaging winds is forecast to occur later today and tonight," forecasters said.
Typically, only a handful of days per year reach high-risk criteria, said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
"Very large hail and damaging winds" can also be expected, forecasters said.
Also on Tuesday, an area touching parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana are at moderate risk for severe thunderstorms. A broad area of slight risk stretches from Texas into parts of Massachusetts.
On Wednesday, portions of Kentucky and Tennessee will be at moderate risk of severe thunderstorms, along with northeast and east-central Mississippi, the northern half of Alabama and northwest Georgia, the Storm Prediction Center said. An area between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains is "likely to see a widespread/potentially dangerous severe weather event," forecasters said.
Arkansas may be under the gun for the second time this week. More than 60,000 people were out of power Tuesday morning after a rash of severe storms tore through the state Monday, leaving eight dead and destroying more than a dozen homes.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe told CNN the eighth death was flooding-related and occurred in northwest Arkansas.
The weather also spawned a suspected tornado that struck an Air Force base, military officials said, and prompted the Arkansas governor to declare a state of emergency.
Arkansas twister was 'quick and fast'
Church steeple toppled by storm
In Faulkner County, at least four people died in the severe thunderstorms, according to Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management spokesman Stephen Hawk.
Beebe toured the Faulkner County town of Vilonia Tuesday, telling CNN affiliate KATV, "These folks have suffered some terrible losses."
The governor said he was surprised there were no more fatalities, given the extent of the damage. The ground is so saturated that instead of snapping trees, high winds pulled them out of the ground, he said.
And "it may not be over," he said. "... I think Arkansans need to be very cautious."
House-to-house searches were being conducted in Vilonia, Hawk said. About 15 houses are destroyed, he said, and "within the three-mile path of the storm, everything was affected. There are untold numbers of affected houses... The only grocery store in town, the roof was pretty much torn off."
In Faulkner County alone, 6,600 people were without power, he said.
On Monday night, Madison County Sheriff Phillip Morgan said the bodies of an elderly man and woman were found after flood waters swept away the couple's car on Highway 23 south of Huntsville, in northwest Arkansas. The deaths are attributed to rising flood waters along War Eagle Creek.
Also in northwest Arkansas, the Washington County Sheriff's Office confirmed the death of 38-year-old Consuelo Santillano, who authorities say was swept away by rapidly moving water across Highway 265 South.
And a possible tornado struck Little Rock Air Force Base in central Arkansas, damaging at least 16 homes and knocking out power to some parts of the base, military officials said.
Bob Oldham, a spokesman for the base, reported two minor injuries and some damage to aircraft at the base. The number of aircraft and the extent of damage were not immediately clear, Oldham said early Tuesday.
Beebe told CNN later in the day that three C-130s were damaged to the point that, according to preliminary reports, they are inoperable "without significant repairs."
The state also saw seven deaths in an earlier round of severe weather this month.
Other parts of the state were flooded after several days of unceasing rain.
Steve Wilkes of Fayetteville said his house was spared damage from a nearby flooded creek, but some of his friends are dealing with flooded basements.
"I've lived here for more than 20 years. I've never seen anything like this in my life," Wilkes said. "I saw water 2 to 3 feet deep across roadways that have never flooded."
In various parts of the state, the storms flipped over cars, damaged homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands, emergency management officials said. Some areas reported gusts of up to 70 mph.
Entergy Arkansas, Inc., which provides electricity to 687,000 customers in 63 counties, reported 60,500 customers were without power as of about 9:45 a.m. (10:45 a.m. ET) Tuesday, down from a high of about 88,000.
Beebe declared a state of emergency Monday night "in response to the severe storms and flooding that have impacted Arkansas and are expected to continue in the coming days," according to a statement on the governor's website.
The declaration is retroactive to include storms that began on April 19, according to the statement.
Emergency management officials said they received a number of reports of trees ripped out of the ground and cars flipped over in Garland County, in central Arkansas.
There were more than 15,000 homes in Garland County alone without power, said Joy Sanders, director of the county's emergency management.
The winds knocked over a mobile home near Hot Springs, trapping a person, Sanders said.
She said there were so many calls for assistance that there were not enough medics or ambulances to respond. The county called for assistance from neighboring counties, she said.
The stage may be set for a potential record-breaking month for tornadoes nationwide, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The long-term average for confirmed tornadoes in April is 116. The previous record for April is 267 confirmed tornadoes in 1974, which includes the historic "super outbreak" of April 3 and 4 that year. According to the Storm Prediction Center, the likely total of confirmed tornadoes through April 24 is between 200 and 275.

No comments: