October 31, 2020

Mississippi, pay close attention to weather overnight; storm packing hurricane-force winds, hail headed here

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist

The weather will take a volatile turn across a sweeping section of the southern U.S. heading into the second weekend of January, with more than 30 million Americans under the threat for severe thunderstorms, including the potential for tornadoes.

In Mississippi, a large swath of the Delta is now forecast to have a moderate chance of severe weather tonight and into the early morning hours Saturday. Much of the rest of the state has what the National Weather Service refers to as an “enhanced” risk.

The threat zone will include major metro areas such as Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Nashville, likely leading to travel headaches. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that some of the most hazardous weather could occur after dark.

“Residents and visitors will need to be extra vigilant, as many people may not think about severe weather in January,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.

Tornado outbreaks in the month of January are not unheard of. A total of 455 tornadoes touched down during the month of January from 2010 to 2019 in the U.S., with a 10-year average of 45.5 twisters per month, according to an analysis of data compiled by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

However, as recently as 2017, 137 tornadoes touched down during the month of January, so even though it’s not a time of year generally thought of as “tornado season,” dangerous conditions can develop in tornado-prone regions during the first month of the year.

A strong cold front poised to sweep through the Southern states will be the trigger for the violent weather.

The storms will keep every bit of their punch as they race eastward into the lower Mississippi Valley during Friday night in the form of a squall line.

Straight-line wind gusts to an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 90 mph can occur Friday afternoon and night, leading to broken tree limbs, some structural damage and power outages. Forecasters say flooding downpours and tornadoes are also a big concern.

“Some strong tornadoes are not out of the question,” Adamson said. “The tornado threat will be highest in any individual thunderstorm cells that develop ahead of the main line, but tornadoes are possible anywhere in the threat zone.”

“This really looks like the potential for a big outbreak of severe weather Friday night into Saturday and the concern is from east Texas all the way across Mississippi, Louisiana,” AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said Wednesday on AccuWeather’s Weather Insider podcast.

Rayno said that a lot of times severe weather can diminish when the sun goes down, but in this case he expressed concern the exact opposite is going to occur because of all the energy in the atmosphere. The severe weather will continue well past sunset and that is always a dangerous setup.

“I think there’s gonna be wind, hail and I think we’re gonna see tornadoes on the ground,” Rayno said. “The question is: How many?”

Remember that it does not take a tornado to cause destructive damage to homes or businesses in a community, as intense straight-line wind gusts can inflict comparable damage.