More than 50 million people in the Southeast face the possibility of severe weather Monday as sweltering, record-breaking temperatures threaten millions more, including many who remain without power after several rounds of storms last week.
A Level 2 of 5 slight risk of severe weather is in place across parts of the Gulf Coast and the Southeast, including the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Savannah, Georgia. The main threats are damaging wind gusts, large hail and isolated tornadoes.
A Level 1 of 5 marginal risk stretches from central Texas to southern Florida and north to western North Carolina, leaving cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Tampa, Orlando and Miami in Florida under the threat of large hail and damaging wind gusts.
The same system spawned a reported tornado in Mississippi late Sunday, leaving multiple injuries and structural damage around Bay Springs and Louin, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service.
A shelter “for all those displaced from the recent destruction of tornado activity,” was set to open Monday morning, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department said in a Facebook post.
That followed several days of severe weather across the region, including a tornado last Thursday that devastated the Texas Panhandle community of Perryton, where three people – including an 11-year-old boy – were killed and more than a hundred others injured.
On Monday, the threat of excessive rainfall moves eastward to the southeastern parts of the country, bringing the threat of thunderstorms and flooding over parts of the Southeast, southern mid-Atlantic and Southern Appalachians.
The threat Monday follows more than 70 storm reports across the Southeast on Sunday, according to the Storm Prediction Center, including up to eight tornado reports, mostly in central Mississippi. Hail two inches wide or larger was also reported Sunday in Kerr County, Texas, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio.
Meanwhile, around 35 million people are under heat alerts from a blistering heat wave that has settled across much of Texas, Louisiana and southern New Mexico and Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service.
Many are facing the heat without air conditioning with 465,000 customers without power in the South Monday morning after severe weather in recent days – including 215,000 in Oklahoma and about 85,000 in Texas and another 83,000 in Louisiana, according to PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service is advising residents to stay inside during the hottest part of the day, drink plenty of water and not leave children or pets in vehicles.
“In case we haven’t said it enough,” the weather service in Midland, Texas, tweeted, it’s going to be “HOT. Try to spend as little time as possible outdoors, but if you must be outside, take frequent breaks in the AC, drink plenty of water & spend as much time as possible in the shade.”
As the heat wave lingers, over 40 daily records could be tied or broken across Texas this week. The worst of the heat is expected from Monday through Wednesday.
The combination of temperature and humidity – or the heat index – could climb to 113 to 122 degrees in cities including Houston, San Antonio, Brownsville and Dallas.
Several daily heat records were already broken on Sunday. Del Rio, Texas, recorded a temperature of 111 degrees Sunday, breaking the previous daily record of 106 degrees set in 2011. Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, tied its record of 106 degrees set a dozen years ago and McAllen, Texas, reported a record-breaking 105 degrees.
“Temperatures in the 100s will not only rival daily high temperature marks for the nation but may tie or break existing records,” the weather service said. “There will be little relief (with) overnight with lows in the upper 70s and 80s.”
Cities across the South – some still cleaning up from last week’s storms – are preparing for hot weather by opening cooling centers.
Houston will have cooling centers open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday as the city braces for high temperatures. Caddo Parish in Louisiana has opened additional cooling centers as it grapples with power outages and storm cleanup.
New Orleans’ emergency preparedness campaign is working with the New Orleans Fire Department to set up hydration stations to provide water and sunscreen on Sunday and Monday.