The National Weather Service's forecast for Tuesday includes rain in the southern United States.
Residents of the southern United States are no strangers to severe weather, with routine rounds of heavy rain, thunderstorms and even hail or tornadoes common throughout much of the year. With a large, potent storm system moving into the central United States, AccuWeather forecasters say potentially damaging storms are in the cards for much of the region to start the new year, and a variety of severe weather hazards are expected.
On New Year's Day, the source of these intense storms will still be well to the west. Accumulating snow will be ongoing in the central and southern Rockies, as well as around the Four Corners region, with rain at lower elevations. However, this storm will slowly move eastward into the Plains and intensify in the process. This will allow severe thunderstorms to develop on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a steady wind from the south will bring moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, a key ingredient for thunderstorm development. High temperatures across the Southeast will also be well above normal in many areas.
In Houston and New Orleans, Monday is likely to bring highs in the upper 70s Fahrenheit or perhaps the low 80s in some warmer spots along the immediate coast. This is quite unusual for the time of year, with the daily record high at 81 degrees in both cities.
Farther north, in cities such as Little Rock, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., temperatures in the low 70s will be just as unusual, falling just shy of daily record highs.
"A dip in the jet stream will bring the strongest upper-level winds into the South. When combined with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and substantially above-average temperatures, the setup will be in place for severe thunderstorms to form," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva explained.
The chance of severe storms will start with a bang on Monday, which will likely be the most active of the two days. Thunderstorms are likely to fire across eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, quickly strengthening as they move eastward. A separate area of storms may develop farther east near the Mississippi River, meaning multiple rounds of storms may occur on Monday for some.
Residents in cities such as Dallas and Houston may have their morning commutes impacted, while much of Arkansas, Louisiana and eastern Tennessee may experience an all-day event. By evening, storms will continue to move eastward into much of Louisiana and Mississippi.
In addition to common threats such as lightning and heavy rain, damaging straight-line winds are expected from some storms. With plenty of cold air above the surface given the time of year, hail will be a concern as well. Finally, with ample wind shear in the atmosphere, the setup on Monday should promote at least a few tornadoes, which could even become strong and long-tracked, AccuWeather forecasters say.
While not as widespread as the day earlier, severe weather should continue farther east on Tuesday. Heavy rain and strong wind gusts will be the main threats, but a tornado or two cannot be ruled out.
Cities such as Birmingham, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., will likely experience thunderstorms during the afternoon and early evening, when they are most intense. Storms will also continue farther east into the late-evening hours.
"If these thunderstorms can move east quickly enough, Atlanta could be threatened with damaging wind gusts overnight. This will be most likely just to the west of the city," DaSilva said.
Those within the severe threat areas should monitor conditions closely, and keep an eye on the latest watches and warnings for your location, experts say. Should a tornado warning be issued, the lowest and most interior room of a well-built structure will be the safest place to ride out the storm.
Those traveling will want to allow increased time to reach their destination. Heavily traveled roadways such as interstates 20, 30 and 55 will be impacted. Major airline hubs such as Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta may experience delays and cancellations, which can also cause far-reaching impacts at other airports.
This period of unsettled weather will be short-lived. By the middle to late portions of the week, dry conditions are set to return to nearly all of the Southeast.