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April 18, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Deadly Storms Rip through the South—This Week Looks Active, Too

A powerful storm system rolled through the southern U.S. this weekend killing at least 45 people across six states (21 were in North Carolina). When the storm moved through Sanford, which is about 40 miles south of Raleigh, it ripped the steel roof right off of a Lowe’s store and flattened the front of the building. At the time the storm hit, there were more than 100 employees and customers in it. People inside could hear the roof ripping off, but thankfully the store manager and his employees were able to get customers into a safe place in the back of the store and no one was killed. The storm damaged hundreds of homes in the area and it was the worst tornado outbreak in the state since 22 tornadoes killed 42 people in 1984.

Lowe’s store in Sanford hit by tornado. Image: AP

Last week, this strong storm system hit Oklahoma hard on Thursday killing two people. On Friday it moved across the Deep South and hit North Carolina and Virginia on Saturday. According to authorities, severe storms associated with this system killed 7 in Arkansas, 7 in Alabama, 7 in Virginia and 1 in Mississippi. A whopping 240 tornadoes were reported from this particular system and in North Carolina alone there were 62. Many of the deaths occurred in mobile home parks. An estimated 14.5% of the population in NC lives in mobile homes. Damage assessments are under way and the death toll could rise as search and rescue units are hard at work.

This is what’s left of a mobile home. Image: AP

Although fairly quiet conditions can be expected across the Carolinas today, there’s a chance for another round of severe storms by the middle of the week. A strong low pressure system and associated cold front is forecast to move into the central Plains Tuesday, eastward across the mid-Mississippi Valley and into the Deep South and Ohio Valley Wednesday. Widespread showers and thunderstorms will likely develop ahead of and along the frontal boundary during the late afternoon and into the evening hours on Tuesday. This activity will likely merge into a large complex of thunderstorms and is forecast to track across the Tennessee Valley and Ohio Valley during the overnight hours Tuesday night into early Wednesday and into the Deep South Wednesday afternoon and evening. Conditions will be favorable for the development of isolated severe storms capable of producing damaging wind gusts, intense lightning, large hail and isolated tornados.

 Here’s the risk for severe storms across the Plains to the mid-Mississippi and Ohio Valley on Tuesday, April 19th -Wednesday, April 20th. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

The threat for severe weather will shift eastward along the East Coast on Wednesday afternoon/evening with isolated severe storms possible from the Northeast to the Deep South. The main threats will be strong wind gusts, hail, heavy rainfall and isolated tornadoes. Later this week a front will basically stall over the southeastern U.S. and lift northward with scattered showers and thunderstorms expected. Isolated severe storms will be possible. Then this weekend, a cold front will stall over the southern Plains and Mid-South and isolated severe storms will be possible both of those days as well.

Wednesday: Isolated severe storms (indicated in red) will be possible from the Northeast into the Southeast and Mississippi Valley. Snow (white) will be possible from Minnesota into southern Canada. Breezy winds (yellow) can be expected across Great Lakes, Northeast, lower Texas coast and Four Corners. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

 Thursday/Friday: Isolated severe storms (red) remain possible from the Plains into the Ohio Valley and Southeast. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

 Weekend: Isolated severe storms (red) possible from the Plains into the Southeast/TN Valley. Breezy conditions (yellow) expected across Great Lakes and Northeast. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Unfortunately, it looks like the weather will be pretty active the rest of the week across the eastern half of the country. It’s severe weather season after all so it’s always a good idea to be prepared when severe weather threatens your area and you know what to do in case a tornado warning is issued.

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