(Reuters) – Severe thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail will slam a swathe of the U.S. South on Saturday from eastern Texas to Mississippi, forecasters said.
The National Weather Service on Saturday issued warnings of enhanced risk of severe weather for parts of Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas, Mississippi and western Alabama.
Bob Oravec, a meteorologist for the service’s Weather Prediction Center, said the agency rarely issues risk levels that high – level four on their five-step scale, meaning long-lived, widespread and intense storms are likely.
“That emphasizes that threat level,” Oravec said.
Parts of Texas and Louisiana were experiencing heavy rain early on Saturday. In Texas, the service predicted wind gusts of up to 70 mph (113 kph) and large hail up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Oravec said the storms were expected to continue into the evening before moving east by Sunday morning, where they will stretch from the Ohio Valley and into the southeast.
“The worst stuff is going to be from this morning into this evening, he added. “After that it should be winding down as it moves further east.”
Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish