By Robert Shackelford, Elizabeth Wolfe and Mary Gilbert, CNN
(CNN) — More than 20 million people from eastern Texas to the Southeast face a threat of severe thunderstorms beginning Monday afternoon, with some areas bracing for the possibility of strong tornadoes.
“Damaging winds and several tornadoes, a few of which may be strong, will be the primary hazards,” forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center said early Monday. Hail bigger than golf balls is also possible.
Severe thunderstorms are likely to blow across eastern Texas Monday afternoon before marching across the lower Mississippi Valley and toward Alabama through the night, the storm center said.
An enhanced risk level for severe storms, or a Level 3 of 5, has been issued for parts of eastern Texas, northern Louisiana and central Mississippi, including Jackson, Mississippi, and Alexandria, Louisiana, the center said. The greatest risk for strong tornadoes that could deliver wind speeds in excess of 111 mph – EF2-strength or stronger – lies in this region.
Level 1 and 2 severe threats are in place from Texas to Alabama and Arkansas, including Houston and Little Rock, Arkansas. Tornadoes are also possible within these risk areas.
Tornado warnings haven’t been issued across much of the Southeast since late June, but November marks the start of a secondary severe weather season in the region. The clash of cold, Canadian air drilling into the South and lingering warm, moist air over the Gulf of Mexico typically leads to an uptick in damaging thunderstorms from November to December.
The storms may bring a brief reprieve to drought-stricken Louisiana and Mississippi, which could see excessive rainfall of up to 2 inches on Monday, and as many as 3 inches in some areas, according to the Weather Prediction Center.
Louisiana is suffering through its worst drought on record – one that’s fed unprecedented wildfires and contributed to the potentially catastrophic intrusion of saltwater into the Mississippi River. Exceptional drought – the US Drought Monitor’s most extreme category – now covers nearly three-quarters of the state, according to data released last week. In neighboring Mississippi, exceptional drought has spread over more than half of the state.
West waves goodbye to heavy snow
The same storm that will deliver severe thunderstorms to the South blew through the Rockies over the weekend, leaving heavy mountain snowfall piled nearly a foot high in several parts of Utah, Nevada and Colorado, preliminary snow reports show.
Parts of Utah saw a foot or more of snow, followed closely by some cities in Nevada.
Here are some of the latest preliminary snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service:
- Alta and Collins, Utah, area: 13 inches
- Snowbird, Utah: 12 inches
- Pole Canyon, Nevada: 11 inches
- Green Mountain, Nevada: 11 inches
- Mt. Rose Ski Base, Nevada: 10 inches
- Mount Crested Butte, Colorado: 7 inches
- Mammoth Mountain Ski Base, California: 7 inches
Lower elevations were still warm enough to receive rainfall, with storm totals of 1 to 3 inches reported and isolated totals exceeding 3 inches.
High wind gusts also swept the region, with a gust of 144 mph reported in Mammoth, California, which has an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet.
More than 15 million people across parts of the West are under high winds alerts Monday morning. Those under high wind warnings may see gusts up to 80 mph. Those under wind advisories could see gusts up to 65 mph.
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