By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com at the AccuWeather Global Weather Center
Thunderstorms in parts of the South Central states this weekend may become strong enough to threaten lives and property. A few of the thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.
The area of concern for severe weather Saturday into Saturday evening will reach from part of northeastern Texas to a large part of Louisiana and Mississippi, southeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois and western portions of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Into Saturday night the severe weather risk will reach into southern Indiana, central Kentucky, middle Tennessee, Alabama and part of the Florida Panhandle.
The main threats are damaging wind gusts and flash flooding. Wind gusts can reach 80 mph in some of the strongest storm. Rainfall is forecast to be heavy enough to cause flash, urban and small stream flooding.
There is still the risk for a few tornadoes within this zone.
Cities that may be hit with damaging thunderstorms and travel disruptions include Houston; Shreveport, La.; Jackson, Miss.; New Orleans; Birmingham and Mobile, Ala., Cairo, Ill., Louisville, Ky.; and Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.
What will elevate the danger with the severe weather is that some of the strongest storms and the potential for tornadoes will occur after dark Saturday.
According to Mike Smith, senior vice president of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, “My concern is since this is both out of season and a holiday travel weekend, people might be caught off guard.”
Locally gusty and drenching thunderstorms with the risk of urban flooding will extend northward into the upper part of the Ohio Valley Saturday night and as far east as the Appalachians and the northeastern Gulf Coast by Sunday.
Blinding downpours and water-logged roadways will reach from I-10 to I-70 with severe thunderstorms centered on the I-55 corridor.
It is possible parts of the coastal mid-Atlantic and southern New England have a rare December thunderstorm Sunday night.
North and west of the storm track, a zone of ice and snow will occur that can be rather heavy from parts of the central Plains to the Great Lakes, northern New England and neighboring Canada.
While severe weather outbreaks are much more rare during the winter months, they are no stranger to the South Central states in December.
A major tornado outbreak stretched from Arkansas to Alabama and as far north as Illinois during Dec. 18-19, 1957. The storms took the lives of 19 people.
Just last year on Christmas Day, a severe thunderstorm and tornado outbreak reached from northeastern Texas to central Alabama.
“A tornado struck downtown Mobile, Ala., last Christmas afternoon,” Smith added.
About AccuWeather: AccuWeather, established in 1962, bills itself as “the World’s Weather Authority.” The for-profit company provides local forecasts for every part of the United States and over two million locations worldwide. AccuWeather has more than 175,000 paying customers in media, business, government and institutions. Its headquarters in State College, Pa., is home to the greatest number of forecast meteorologists in one location anywhere in the world.