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Severe weather to threaten 25 million from Texas to Illinois

By Alex Sosnowki, Accuweather.com
A customer inspects the rows of Christmas trees at Ted Drewes Christmas Tree sales in St. Louis on Saturday. Ted Drewes sells 450 different trees from which you can choose. Approximately 25 million people in the south-central United States will be at risk for severe thunderstorms on Tuesday alone. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
A customer inspects the rows of Christmas trees at Ted Drewes Christmas Tree sales in St. Louis on Saturday. Ted Drewes sells 450 different trees from which you can choose. Approximately 25 million people in the south-central United States will be at risk for severe thunderstorms on Tuesday alone. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

As a potent, multifaceted storm rolls out from the Rockies, severe weather ranging from high winds to a few tornadoes will be possible from the northwestern Gulf coast to the Mississippi Valley, AccuWeather meteorologists warn. Approximately 25 million people in the south-central United States will be at risk for severe thunderstorms on Tuesday alone.

The storm will interact with warmth and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico pushed along by stiff winds. Heavy, gusty and perhaps violent thunderstorms will erupt later in the day Tuesday and Tuesday night as energy from the jet stream moves in miles above the ground.

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The first storms are likely to fire from portions of northeastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana and central and eastern Arkansas. As a push of colder air continues to move along, the storms will shift eastward into western portions of Mississippi and expand northward into southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois and the western parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

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The main threat from the storms later Tuesday will likely be due to strong wind gusts capable of knocking over trees, triggering power outages and potentially leading to minor property damage. Gusts from the storms will frequent 50-70 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax&trade wind gust to 75 mph possible.

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"A few of the strongest storms will carry the potential to produce a tornado," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said of Tuesday's storms.

Tornadoes are not unheard of this time of the year. On Saturday, a tornado was confirmed in St. Charles Parish, La. The storm knocked down trees, caused power outages to 10,000 utility customers and damaged buildings in Paradis, La., Saturday afternoon. There were no reports of injuries.

Since the tornado risk will extend into the nighttime hours on Tuesday, it will pose an added danger of not being able to see the storm in advance. Not all of the storms may produce frequent lightning that would illuminate the storm, and there is the added risk that heavy rain may conceal the tornado.

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Downpours will be heavy enough to not only reduce the visibility for motorists, but may also lead to excess water on the roads and urban flooding.

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Major metro areas in the path of the storms from late Tuesday to Tuesday night include Houston; Shreveport, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Memphis, Tenn.

The risk of severe thunderstorms will continue to some extent on Wednesday farther to the east.

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"On Wednesday, atmosphere conditions will begin to trend less favorable for severe weather, but that may not be enough to prevent damaging storms from occurring," AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Joe Bauer said. "The greatest risk of severe thunderstorms may be near the Interstate-10 corridor of the central Gulf coast, but some strong storms may extend as far north as middle Tennessee as well."

Fast movement of the storm system and a trailing cold front will keep the severe weather threat limited to a period of six to eight hours in most cases. That fast motion may allow strong to locally severe storms to push eastward later Wednesday to Wednesday evening in the central portions of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Major metro areas that could experience a period of thunderstorms capable of producing flash flooding and damaging wind gusts on Wednesday include New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala.

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As the storms swing through the major hubs from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday evening, airline delays and ground stops are likely.

A vast zone where strong wind gusts, in absence of thunder and lightning, can be locally damaging and disruptive north of the primary severe weather threat. These gusts can occur ahead of the strong cold front due to southerly winds and after the front passes as colder and drier air sweeps in from the west.

Airline passengers should expect additional delays north of the severe thunderstorm zone in the Midwest and the Northeast from Tuesday to Wednesday.

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