A severe weather outbreak ripped across the southern United States on Friday with nearly 40 million Americans at risk for damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Preparations began Thursday night as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a press release that numerous state resources were being placed on standby in advance of the severe weather.
"As severe weather approaches the state of Texas, resources have been placed on standby to assist local officials in the event they are needed," Gov. Abbott said. "All residents should heed warnings from local officials and pay attention to weather alerts. I ask that all Texans keep those in the storm's path and all of Texas' first responders in their prayers as they deal with the effects of this storm."
The outbreak began to unfold on Friday morning in western Oklahoma as reports of golf ball-sized hail were reported in the town of Leedey, located about 130 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.
As Friday progresses into the afternoon and evening, the severe weather is expected to spread into Arkansas, east Texas and Louisiana. The center of that region -- in an area that includes major cities such as Little Rock, Ark., and Shreveport, La. -- is expected to be at the highest risk for tornadoes.
The severe weather, which is being triggered by a sweeping cold front, is expected to bring strong tornadoes and violent wind gusts with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 80 mph, potentially leading to widespread structural damage and power outages.
"I think there's gonna be wind, hail and I think we're gonna see tornadoes on the ground," AccuWeather chief broadcast meteorologist Bernie Rayno said on AccuWeather's Weather Insider podcast. "The question is: How many?"
5:50 p.m. CST Friday:
A radar-confirmed tornado is just south of Fort Worth, Texas, and is heading northeast at 30 mph. The projected path will take the tornado over or very close to the Fort Worth/Spinks Airport.
Farther north, hours of rain have left the northbound lanes of Highway 287 in Decatur, Texas, submerged. The flash flooding caught at least one car.
5:30 p.m. CST Friday:
A new tornado watch has been issued from eastern Texas into southern Missouri that will continue into Friday night. This includes Shreveport, Louisiana, and Little Rock, Arkansas.
A tornado watch means that conditions are conducive for tornado development and that people in the area should closely monitor the weather. If a tornado warning is issued, this means that a tornado is imminent and people should seek shelter immediately.
4 p.m. CST Friday:
By 4 p.m. on Friday, just over 300 flights had already been canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport amid the severe weather, according to FlightAware. Another 344 flights at the airport were delayed.
2:53 p.m. CST Friday:
A radar-confirmed tornado is tracking toward Tahlequah, Okla., moving to the northeast at 45 mph. People in the path of the this tornado need to seek shelter immediately.
The Tahlequah Daily Press reported that the tornado siren system was down at the time of the alert.
1 p.m. CST Friday:
A new tornado watch has been issued for part of eastern Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Storms in this area could lead to significant disruptions to the Friday evening commute, especially for those flying into and out of airports being impacted by the storms.
10:43 a.m. CST Friday:
A tornado watch was released by the SPC for portions of central and eastern Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, and southwest Missouri. As thunderstorms continue to intensify in central Oklahoma, the favorable tornadic conditions are expected to spread eastward.
According to AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, this is just the third time since 1997 that a tornado watch has been issued by the SPC between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10.
7:42 a.m. CST Friday:
In the town of Leedey, Okla., in the western portion of the state, golf ball-sized hail was reported. The 1.75-inch hail was the first reporting connected to the severe weather.