Mississippi, other southern states, sees more severe weather Sunday

A man sits amongst damage from an EF-4 tornado in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, March 25. Photo: Will Newton/Getty Images

With residents of Mississippi and portions of Alabama reeling from the damage sustained during Friday night's deadly tornado outbreak, more severe weather is occurring Sunday.

Threat level: The Storm Prediction Center is forecasting the likelihood of "several tornadoes" that could include "a few strong tornadoes" in southern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia in particular, with the threat lasting into Sunday evening.

  • The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has placed the region from northeastern Louisiana to southern Alabama in an “Enhanced Risk” for severe thunderstorms Sunday. This is a level 3 out of 5 on the storm threat scale.
  • On Sunday morning, several supercell thunderstorms, which contain rotating, upward-moving currents of air and can spawn powerful tornadoes, rolled across south-central Alabama and Georgia, with reports of wind damage and large hail.
  • At last one tornado caused damage in Georgia Sunday morning, per a storm report to the SPC.
  • There is a risk for more tornadoes especially this afternoon and evening in central Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama, when the air will be more unstable.
  • In addition, wind shear, which refers to winds blowing in different directions and/or speed with height, will be maximized. This is a key ingredient for tornado formation that was in abundance on Friday night.
  • Other severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and large hail are likely in the Carolinas today as well, the SPC predicts.

Yes, but: The atmosphere is not quite as volatile as it was on Friday night, and the threat area for more severe weather is further south than some of the hardest-hit communities from Friday into early Saturday.

  • Communities in the region with the highest risk for tornadoes Sunday include Jackson and Hattiesburg, Miss., Auburn, Ala. and Alexandria, La.

State of Play: The long-lived, devastating tornado that caused extreme damage in communities such as Rolling Fork and Silver City, Miss. Friday night has received a preliminary intensity rating of EF-4, with winds of between 166 mph to 200 mph.

  • According to the National Weather Service, that tornado had a path length of at least 59 miles, lasting for 1 hour and 10 minutes. It was three-quarters of a mile wide, based on the preliminary storm damage survey conducted Saturday.
  • More surveys are underway Sunday, and the full path length of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the single or multiple tornadoes appears to have traveled at least 100 miles.
  • On Saturday, President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for Mississippi, which speeds the release of government aid to the state.

Context: Tornadoes are more common in the South and Southeast during March than in the Plains states, known informally as "Dixie Alley."

  • Warmer than average ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and any lingering atmospheric effects from a recently diminished La Niña event could be aggravating factors in increasing storm risks.
  • La Niña is known to bring more weather disturbances to the region during spring. The landmark tornado outbreaks in April 2011 occurred during a La Niña spring.
  • Milder than average ocean temperatures add to the atmospheric moisture, and therefore energy, available for severe thunderstorms in the South and Southeast.

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