Mississippi Valley to Gulf Coast on alert for severe storms on busy Thanksgiving travel day

Renee Duff

Forecasters are concerned that the same storm poised to spread a swath of snow across the central United States prior to Thanksgiving will also spark violent thunderstorms farther south and east.

While holiday travelers from portions of the lower Mississippi Valley to the Gulf Coast will not have to contend with snowy, slippery conditions next week, downpours from thunderstorms could lead to disruptions and slowdowns in this corridor this Tuesday.

"Depending on how quickly this storm system strengthens, we could be contending with severe thunderstorms from Arkansas and Louisiana through western portions of Kentucky and Tennessee," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins said.

The feistiest thunderstorms may erupt east of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Dallas, targeting cities such as Little Rock, Arkansas; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee.

Thunderstorms that bubble up in this swath may be capable of producing damaging winds and hail, in addition to downpours and frequent lightning strikes. Should all the proper ingredients come together, isolated tornadoes could also occur.

"The timing of the severe weather depends on the forward speed of the storm," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

AccuWeather meteorologists anticipate the severe weather threat to be limited to Tuesday and Tuesday evening given the quick-moving nature of the storm.

While severe weather will not strike every location within the threat zone, residents and those traveling through the area should remain vigilant for rapidly changing weather conditions.

Remember to seek shelter indoors and away from windows at the first clap of thunder. A thunderstorm does not have to be severe to produce potentially deadly lightning strikes.

North of the area at greatest concern for severe weather, rain can still slow travelers across the Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Tuesday night.

Motorists with plans to travel along stretches of interstates 10, 20, 30, 40, 55 and 64 should make sure windshield wipers are in good working order before venturing to their holiday destinations. Visibility may be drastically reduced at times, and there will be a heightened risk of vehicles hydroplaning at highway speeds amid the downpours.

Any downpours will exacerbate slowdowns due to the sheer volume of Thanksgiving traffic.

More than 55 million travelers will hit the road and take to the sky for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). The holiday travel volume is expected to be second-highest behind 2005 since tracking began in 2000, AAA said.

As the storm system cruises northeastward on Wednesday, only a few scattered thunderstorms may remain across the South as the risk of severe weather diminishes.

The Northeastern states are expected to bear the brunt of the storm's impacts by this point, with rain, snow and gusty winds possibly all in the cards on the busiest travel day of the year.

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