Severe weather, flooding threats loom for Texas to Ohio this week
Icy conditions ended January and lingered into the first few days of February across the south-central U.S to the Ohio Valley. Now, AccuWeather meteorologists say a springlike weather pattern will turn things around, with risks of both flooding and severe weather on the docket for the same area.
The most recent extreme weather event to strike the center of the country was when days of dangerous ice struck in late January into early February. The widespread ice event halted travel in half a dozen states from Texas to Kentucky, but areas from Dallas into southern Oklahoma and Arkansas were some of the hardest hit, with more than 600 motor vehicle accidents reported.
The ice has since melted, but AccuWeather forecasters say that some of the same locations could be at risk for a new hazard this week: severe weather.
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Severe thunderstorms have been absent across the southern U.S. so far in February. However, an unusual winter severe weather outbreak took place only a few weeks ago along the Gulf Coast on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25. During this event, there were two dozen tornado reports from Texas to western Florida, including an EF3 tornado that struck the Houston suburb of Deer Park.
This late-January round of severe weather, combined with a mid-month severe weather event in Alabama and Georgia helped the first month of 2023 become one of the most active Januarys for tornadoes in history. Both events straddled Jan. 16, which is statistically the least likely date in the year to see a tornado.
"A storm will be strengthening in Texas on Tuesday, bringing the next round of wet weather and severe thunderstorms to the region," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.
This time, without the presence of exceptionally cold air, icy weather is not expected across most the region. Instead, some cold air following behind the storm, combined with a surge of warm air out of the Gulf of Mexico will make severe weather a possibility with the storm.
Thunderstorms could start as early as Tuesday morning across the eastern half of Texas; however, storms are unlikely to turn severe until at least midday. Once the stronger thunderstorms do develop, they could linger through the nighttime hours and the threat will expand to east of Houston. Texas cities like San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Waco are all at the risk for severe weather through Tuesday night.
In addition to dangerous lightning, the risk of severe thunderstorms will also bring threats of damaging wind gusts of 50-60 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 70 mph. An isolated tornado cannot be ruled out either.
As the cold front bringing the wave of severe weather shifts east on Wednesday, so too will the severe weather risk. Damaging winds and even a few tornadoes are possible on Wednesday and Wednesday night, and wind gusts in excess of 60 mph may be more widespread compared to Tuesday. Overall, the severe weather risk is likely to be more widespread on Wednesday as well.
Cities along Interstate 10 like New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, on northward to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, should have a way to get severe weather alerts and be advised of travel disruptions.
"These thunderstorms will also bring heavy downpours in the same area, which together could bring ponding on roads and localized flooding issues," explained Douty.
This is especially true in far eastern portions of Texas through southern Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In these areas, rounds of heavy rain since mid-January have left the soil on the wetter side and allowed for many secondary rivers to rise to minor flood stage, according to the National Weather Service's network of river gauges. Some locations still have flood warnings in effect as of Tuesday morning.
Douty did warn, however, that the risk of heavy rainfall this week will be even more expansive than the threat of severe thunderstorms.
As the storm continues to move northeastward through midweek, it is expected to pull the warm, tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico with it, allowing for heavy rain to extend as far north as the Ohio Valley.
Just like across the lower Mississippi River Valley, cities across the Ohio Valley have had a wetter-than-normal start to 2023. Through the end of January, Louisville, Kentucky, has reported 5.36 inches of rain, a total that is more than 150% of normal. Indianapolis reported just shy of 4 inches of rain (3.97 inches) in January, which is 127% of its average.
In these communities, as well as cities as far southwest as Dallas and Tulsa, Oklahoma, rainfall amounts up to an inch are possible through early Thursday, putting the region on alert for the risk of water-covered roads to minor river flooding.
Behind this round of wet weather, another wave of cold air is expected from the southern Plains to the Ohio Valley. This may open the door for more wintry weather before the end of the week.
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