A deadly storm system now threatens 90 million people with destructive weather — including major cities
The massive storm system that killed several people from Texas to Mississippi is now barreling east, threatening to spawn tornadoes and other catastrophic weather from New England to the Gulf Coast.
About 90 million people are under the gun for destructive weather Sunday, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.
While Sunday’s storms might not be as severe as the ones that battered the South on Saturday, they will hit far more people in heavily populated cities.
“New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta all within the zone,” CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
At least one tornado was reported Sunday morning in southeast Alabama, near Troy and Goshen, the National Weather Service’s Birmingham office said.
“Heavy rainfall may hide this tornado. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. Take cover now,” the NWS office said.
“Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.”
The weather service also issued tornado watches Sunday evening for parts of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina — including Raleigh and Charlotte — lasting through Sunday night.
Some of the greatest threats include scattered tornadoes, wind gusts reaching 70 mph and hail up to 1.5 inches in diameter.
Not just tornadoes
But tornadoes aren’t the only possible cause of destruction Sunday.
“Damaging winds and some hail are also associated with these storms pushing through the Southeast this morning,” Brink said.
The threat of severe weather will likely increase throughout the day, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said.
“Some storms may also produce large hail or torrential downpours resulting in localized flash flooding,” the weather service tweeted.
Portions of Chicago saw some snow and while it began slowing down Sunday afternoon, the weather service said snow-covered surfaces may pile up to an inch of snow.
6 deaths include 3 children
The storm system’s death toll rose to at least five on Sunday, when authorities reported the death of a Texas woman whose mobile home was destroyed Saturday night.
Four other people were injured when the trailer was struck, Houston County Emergency Management Coordinator Roger Dickey said.
The storm system’s first two victims were two children in east Texas. The children, ages 3 and 8, were killed when a tree fell on a car Saturday. They were in the back seat with their parents in the front, Angelina County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Alton Lenderman said.
A preliminary damage survey showed an EF-3 tornado, with winds up to 140 mph, touched down in Robertson County, the NWS in Fort Worth said.
CNN affiliate KWTX reported widespread damage in the Robertson County town of Franklin, including uprooted trees and roofs ripped off buildings.
The entire town of Franklin and neighboring Bremond lost electricity, with 3,088 customers without power early Sunday.
The Franklin Independent School District announced school would be closed Monday until power is restored.
About two hours north of Franklin, dime-sized hail pelted the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And the Dallas suburb of The Colony was pounded by baseball-sized hail.
The rash of storms then headed east, where it claimed the life of a Louisiana teen. The 13-year-old boy drowned in a drainage area in West Monroe late Saturday afternoon, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office said. The death is believed to be storm related, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office also reported a second death after responding to a vehicle submerged in floodwater with a victim inside. The accident is still being investigated and the identity of the victim has not been released.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Sunday there was one storm-related fatality. Nine people were taken to emergency rooms across the state, four of whom were admitted to the hospital.
He said there were 26,000 power outages Sunday and 28 mostly rural roads remained closed due to flooding.
‘We are just a mess’
Warm air enhanced the atmosphere’s instability Saturday, allowing the storm system to rev up more energy and grow, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
As the storms tore through Mississippi overnight into Sunday, they left a trail of destruction that authorities are still combing through.
The fire station in Hamilton was destroyed, as were multiple homes and a retail center.
“It looks like a storm came up through Louisiana and into Mississippi and exploded in Monroe County,” Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said.
“We were hit really, really, hard. We have a lot of flooding. There are several trees down. We are just a mess.”
Famed golf tournament rushes to finish
At Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club, organizers of The Masters golf tournament moved up tee times Sunday to try to beat dangerous weather.
The tournament ended — with Tiger Woods winning his fifth Masters in dramatic fashion — earlier than usual at mid-afternoon.
A tornado watch was issued for Richmond County — which includes Augusta — lasting through early Sunday night. The weather service also has a Lake Wind Advisory in place for the city, warning of “strong wind and rough waves on area lakes” that could be hazardous for small craft.