Tens of thousands without power as deadly storms hit Southeast

Brian Lada
·4 min read

Ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts from severe storms throughout the southern United States were disrupted from a new round of thunderstorms on Tuesday.

The Carolinas to Louisiana and portions of northeastern Texas were on watch into Tuesday night, while robust storms also continued to erupt across parts of the Ohio Valley and central Appalachians.

Storms turned deadly early on Tuesday when a Tennessee woman was killed by a falling tree as severe thunderstorms moved through Weakley County, located in the northwestern part of the state, WKRN in Nashville reported. The potent storms tracked through the area around 4 a.m. local time and damaged at least six mobile homes. The victim was reportedly sleeping in her bed when the tree toppled onto her bedroom WKRN reported, citing local law enforcement.

Severe thunderstorms were already ongoing early Tuesday morning across portions of Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. (AccuWeather)

The worst of the severe weather on Tuesday focused on the Gulf Coast states with a moderate threat for damaging storms in parts of Mississippi and Alabama. Just over 1 million people reside in this area, which includes the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Thunderstorms started to gather over northern Louisiana and southeastern Arkansas early in the day before eventually coming together into an intense line over Mississippi early Tuesday afternoon.

House damage from a fallen tree in Northeast Jackson, Mississippi. (Image via Twitter/@jennnotgin)

"This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION with tornado like wind speeds expected," the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Jackson, Mississippi, said as the storms approached Mississippi's capital. "These storms have the potential to cause serious injury and significant property damage."

"The primary hazard from the storms on Tuesday was the damaging winds," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said. He added that the line of storms created localized straight-line winds as well as a couple of tornadoes.

A line of intense storms sweeping across Mississippi on May 4, 2021. (AccuWeather)

A 75-mph wind gust was clocked in Philadelphia, Mississippi, located northeast of Jackson, as the storms rushed through with downed trees and power lines reported across the region.

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A radar-confirmed tornado tracked dangerously close to Jackson shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT, but the extent of the damage that it caused is still unclear.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi, released four preliminary damage surveys. An EF1 tornado tracked through Hinds and Rankin County with estimated peak winds of 110 mph.

Two other tornadoes, one that tracked through Madison Parish and Warren County and the second through the Piney Woods community in Rankin County on Tuesday, were also rated as EF1 tornadoes. Peak winds of the two tornadoes are estimated to have reached 105 mph ad 90 mph, respectfully. The fourth tornado, which tracked through Richland Parish, was rated as an EF0 tornado with estimated peak winds of 85 mph.

A large tree branch landed on a truck in Belhaven, Mississippi, damaging the vehicle amid severe storms. (Twitter/ @ehhender)

Power outages began to skyrocket on Tuesday afternoon with more than 100,000 outages across Mississippi alone with additional outages in states including Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. At one point more than 300,000 outages were reported.

People across the Washington, D.C., area hunkered down for a strong storm that passed through the area right around the Tuesday evening commute.

In Van Buren, Arkansas, a tornado-warned storm wreaked havoc on power lines, causing them to spark.

Some roads in Alabama were impassable on Tuesday evening, not only because of downed trees and power lines, but also due to extensive flooding.

The National Weather Service announced a flash flood emergency for the Birmingham, Alabama, metro area late Tuesday afternoon, calling it a "particularly dangerous situation." The warning encompasses southeastern Jefferson County and northwestern Shelby County in central Alabama.

Around 5 p.m. CDT, emergency management personnel reported thunderstorms produced heavy rain across the warned area that unleashed between 3 and 5 inches of rain.

The NWS in Birmingham reported 3.46 inches of rain had fallen at their office within two hours. Around 5 inches of rain typically falls in Birmingham in the entire month of May.

"Lot of flooding around the airport property here. Folks, the heavy rain/flash flooding threat is NO joke. PLEASE stay off the roads if in Jefferson/Shelby Counties," NWS Birmingham tweeted.

The NWS in Birmingham asked residents to seek higher ground now due to the hazardous, life-threatening flash flooding and thunderstorms. The life-threatening flash flooding particularly targeted low water crossings, small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses.

Flooding rain reports across the South as of the late-evening hours of May 4, 2021.

Tuesday's severe weather and damaging storms were a continuation from the weekend and Monday when storms tracked across Texas and Mississippi, including a tornado in Mississippi that prompted a rare tornado emergency for nearly 100,000 people. Two separate fatalities were reported in Georgia on Monday.

The risk for severe thunderstorms is expected to wane significantly at the middle of the week, as the overall storm system begins to move offshore.

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