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Homes flooding in Texas as severe storms ramp up across the South, including a threat of strong tornadoes

1 month 1 week 1 day ago Wednesday, April 10 2024 Apr 10, 2024 April 10, 2024 3:48 PM April 10, 2024 in Weather
Source: CNN
By: Robert Shackelford, Dalia Faheid and Mary Gilbert, CNN
Attendees of the Taste of Mississippi event wait in line in the rain in Jackson, Mississippi. Sarah Warnock/USA Today via CNN Newsource
Originally Published: 10 APR 24 02:45 ET
Updated: 10 APR 24 09:42 ET

Editor's note: For the latest coverage of the severe weather, read our live story here.

(CNN) — Severe storms are battering parts of the South with torrential rain and damaging winds, threatening tornadoes and creating “life-threatening” flooding.

Crews were responding to “10 to 15 high-water rescues” in the eastern Texas city of Kirbyville early Wednesday, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said, and flooding damage was reported in homes and businesses.

“All major roads coming into Kirbyville are shut down due to flooding,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

A flash flood emergency was issued in Kirbyville after the Pin Oak Creek rose 10 feet in six hours overnight as heavy rain and thunderstorms pummeled the region, the National Weather Service said.

Up to 12 inches of rain has already fallen in the area and up to 3 more inches are possible, prompting the National Weather Service to expand the flash flood emergency to multiple nearby towns Wednesday morning.

Overall, more than 30 million people across the Southeast are under a severe storm threat Wednesday, while flood alerts are in effect for over 13 million people from Texas to Georgia amid heavy downpours, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Hail the size of baseballs and softballs pummeled portions of Texas Tuesday as fierce winds gusted to 88 mph.

A potential tornado rolled through parts of Port Arthur, Texas, Wednesday morning and dealt considerable damage to several homes and a church, brought down tree limbs and knocked over street signs.

Another tornado was observed around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city of Raymond, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Jackson – and more tornadoes could be on the way Wednesday.

Additional severe thunderstorms were ongoing Wednesday morning with multiple tornado warnings along portions of the Gulf Coast but an even greater threat will ramp up during the late afternoon and evening hours.

“Widespread severe thunderstorms are forecast across parts of the central Gulf Coast States. The potential will exist for several tornadoes, a few of which may be strong (EF2+), and widespread damaging winds, some of which may be particularly damaging,” the prediction center warned early Wednesday.

A Level 4 of 5 severe weather threat stretches from eastern Louisiana to western Alabama and includes Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Meanwhile, there’s a level 3 of 5 severe threat from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, including New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida.

A Level 2 of 5, severe weather threat stretches from Louisiana to southwestern Georgia, including Birmingham, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Georgia. The main threats are large hail, damaging wind gusts and a few tornadoes.

As storms swirl across the South, more than 200,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi were without power Wednesday morning, according to poweroutage.us, and more could soon be left in the dark.

Flash floods could make travel hazardous

Along with the severe storm threat, there remains a threat for very heavy rainfall Wednesday for much of the South, which could cause flash flooding and widespread hazardous travel conditions for residents.

Flash flood warnings were ongoing Wednesday morning across parts of eastern Texas, northern Louisiana, far western Mississippi and southeast Arkansas, where 3 to 6 inches of rainfall have fallen across much of the area.

Flood watches remain in effect until Wednesday evening from Texas to Georgia. At least 4 to 8 inches of additional rain could soak an area from Louisiana to southwestern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

Flash flooding is weather’s No. 2 killer, claiming more lives than anything but heat. It can happen when storms roll over the same areas for hours, with intense rain falling faster than the soil can absorb.

States brace for damaging storms

Widespread closures have been announced and state officials have deployed resources to minimize impacts from Wednesday’s severe thunderstorms.

In Louisiana, at least 11 school districts are closed on Wednesday as storms sweep through the state, including Ascension Parish Public Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish schools and the St. Helena Parish school district. Classes at Southeastern Louisiana University are remote for Wednesday, the university announced. About 47 miles to the west, Louisiana State University announced classes will be held online Wednesday.

State offices and city buildings in Louisiana are closed as well on Wednesday, including New Orleans City Hall and the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. Officials in Shreveport also handed out sandbags to residents in preparation for the weather.

“In light of recent weather forecasts indicating increased precipitation and potential flood risks in our area, the Mayor urges residents to take necessary precautions to protect their homes and properties,” the city of Shreveport said in a news release.

As for neighboring Mississippi, more than 100,000 sandbags have been handed out to residents. Gov. Tate Reeves encouraged residents to be aware of the incoming threat and to have emergency alerts on in preparation.

“Please be careful and cautious if you’re driving, and never drive through flood areas,” Reeves said in a Facebook post.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this week directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to provide resources to communities ahead of severe weather impacting the state. On Tuesday, the governor said he asked officials to deploy additional resources in response to severe thunderstorms and potential flash floods.

“Texans are urged to monitor weather forecasts and heed guidance from emergency officials,” the governor said in a post on X.

CNN’s Caroll Alvarado, Sara Smart, Taylor Ward, Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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