Thursday is the day to prepare for what’s expected to be a wild and potentially dangerous Friday weatherwise across a large swath of the central U.S.
Forecasters are warning of an outbreak of severe weather Friday afternoon and evening in at least 12 states from the Upper Midwest to the Deep South: “Intense, damaging gusts and several tornadoes (some strong and long-track) are expected,” the Storm Prediction Center said.
Tens of millions of people live where the high winds and tornadoes are possible: Big cities in the highest danger areas include Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis, Des Moines and Little Rock.
The storms will be fast-moving, so there won’t be much time to react to warnings, forecasters said. “Now’s the time to start preparing,” said Storm Prediction Center warning coordination meteorologist Matt Elliott.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, more snow was forecast to fall in the mountains of the West. Wintry weather was spreading from California to Montana, Utah and other western states on Thursday, with parts of the Wasatch Mountains expecting up to 2 feet of snow accumulation.
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Severe storm threat on Friday
The potential for severe weather Friday extends from central Texas northward by nearly 1,000 miles to southern Wisconsin.
“This severe weather outbreak will bring a widespread threat of damaging winds and is highly likely to produce a number of tornadoes,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
The storms could also hit parts of Mississippi and Alabama, where residents are still recovering some a series of fatal storms late last week.
Tornado preparedness tips
The National Weather Service says it’s always important to have an emergency plan in place in the event of severe weather, including designating a “safe place” in your home, preferably away from windows and in an interior room. Keeping supplies handy like flashlights, batteries, food, water, clothes and shoes is also recommended.
The weather service also recommends having multiple ways to get updates, including push alerts, local TV reports, weather apps and a NOAA weather radio.
“I think the No. 1 message that people need to have is that they need to be prepared,” said Pam Knox, director of the University of Georgia Weather Network. “Don’t rely on outdoor sirens as a warning. Instead, have a weather radio or smartphone at the ready.
“And know where you’re going to go if you hear a tornado warning,” she said.
Mountain regions in the West see more snow
Winter storm conditions extended across western states again on Thursday, after another storm made its way across California earlier this week.
A winter storm watch was in effect for parts of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah through Friday evening, with snow accumulations of up to 2 feet possible and winds gusting up to 70 mph.
A winter weather advisory is in effect in southwest Montana until midnight on Thursday, with up to a foot of snow expected in the area.
And wintry weather isn’t done with the Golden State yet. A winter weather advisory is also in effect until Thursday afternoon in the state’s western San Gabriel Mountains, with snow accumulations of up to a foot on higher peaks.
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Winter storm tracker
National Weather Radar
Contributing: Associated Press; Adam Friedman, USA TODAY