Severe thunderstorms with the potential for a significant tornado outbreak are hitting the US Southeast Wednesday after the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center issued a rare "high risk" level warning.
Long-track, intense tornadoes were expected to begin in parts of Louisiana and Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon and then spread eastward and peak at night in Mississippi and Alabama, the center said. Atmospheric conditions across the region make this threat for tornadoes as bad as it gets.
The high level threat covers 3 million people, and in all, about 45 million people are under a severe weather threat from the storms and could see tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds. Adding to the concern is that nighttime tornadoes can be more dangerous given that people are sleeping and may be unprepared to take immediate shelter.
The risk level for tornadoes and severe storms was raised to the highest possible level -- 5 out of 5 -- a rare incident, the center says.The last such high risk was issued in May 2019 when the central Plains were hit with dozens of tornadoes and flash flooding.