March 21, 2022

Dangerous Severe Storms Continue Rolling Across Southeast U.S. This Week

A multi-day severe weather outbreak unfolding across the southern United States will approach the Deep South on Tuesday with a threat for tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail. Some of the tornadoes could be strong or long-lived. The greatest threat will cover portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama

This is a classic severe weather setup for the southern half of the country. A low-pressure system developed over the southern Plains on Monday. Warm, humid air surging north from the Gulf of Mexico fueled the development of strong thunderstorms over Texas and Oklahoma. Plenty of vertical wind shear allowed the storms to grow into supercells, some of which produced damaging tornadoes in central and eastern Texas. 

We'll see a similar setup unfold farther east with the heat of the day on Tuesday. The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk—a four out of five on the scale measuring the threat for severe weather—for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, including Baton Rouge and Jackson. The moderate risk is in place due to the threat for tornadoes.

Here's the SPC's tornado probability outlook:

Those probabilities seem low—10 percent!—but that's the probability of a tornado within 25 miles of any point within the shaded area. Considering that the climatological odds of seeing a tornado in this part of the country on any given March 22nd is between 0.20% and 0.40%, a 10% risk should warrant everyone's undivided attention.

The black hatching on the map indicates the risk for strong, long-lived tornadoes. This threat extends farther out than the moderate risk, covering most of Louisiana, two-thirds of Mississippi, and extending into the Mobile and Tuscaloosa areas in western Alabama.

Forecasters reserve moderate risks for days when they're confident that widespread severe weather is possible. We've already seen numerous damaging tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma from this system. All indications point to a potential repeat on Tuesday.

The threat for severe weather will shift into the southeast by Wednesday, where the setup will begin to transition from a supercell/tornado threat to a squall line/damaging wind threat. We could see a few tornadoes across the Carolinas and Georgia on Wednesday, but the predominant threat will be damaging straight-line winds (which can cause just as much, if not more, damage as a tornado!).

Whether you're under the threat for severe weather or not, take a moment to look at your phone and make sure emergency alerts for tornado warnings are activated on your smartphone. This feature, while annoying, is a proven lifesaver and could be the only thing standing between you and severe injury or death if the unthinkable happens.

In addition to your smartphone, it's a great idea to have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts. Weather radios are great. Even leaving the television on a local news station overnight is good so that you might catch a glimpse of live coverage or hear the beeps when a warning is issued.

Always trust the warnings and get ready to act as soon as you hear the alert. And please, please, do not rely on tornado sirens for warnings. They're unreliable relics that aren't designed to be heard indoors.

[Satellite: NOAA]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.