Tornado warnings were issued to 21 states with nearly 90 million people on Friday – as forecasters said conditions could be similar to those which caused death and destruction across the south last week.
People across large sections of the Midwest and southern US are warned to prepare for dangerous weather including tornadoes this afternoon.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms also has the potential to cause hail and damaging wind gusts, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
But people throughout eastern Iowa, western and northern Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas should also be prepared, said Northern Illinois meteorology professor and tornado expert Victor Gensini.
Storm warnings are in place which cover around 21 states with 90 million people. A map from the NOAA shows a huge portion of the Midwest and south faces extreme weather on Friday
The warnings come just a week after a series of devastating tornadoes tore through Mississippi and parts of Alabama. Pictured: A pickup truck rests on top of a restaurant cooler at Chuck’s Dairy Cafe in Rolling Fork, Mississippi
A women sits among the rubble of a home as cleanup continues in the aftermath of Friday’s tornado in Rolling Fork
The warnings come just a week after a series of devastating tornadoes tore through Mississippi and parts of Alabama. Those storms obliterated towns and one cut a deadly path across 170 miles, leaving at least 25 dead in the two states.
Gensini said Friday’s atmospheric setup is similar to the conditions that were present during Mississippi’s deadly storm.
‘There will be lots of thunderstorms… tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail,’ he said.
People in areas under the latest warnings should stock emergency supplies, prepare for power outages, avoid getting stranded in places vulnerable to falling trees or severe hail, and park vehicles in garages if possible, meteorologists said.
The bad weather could also extend into Chicago, where forecasters warned of a ‘relatively rare, significant severe weather threat’ that includes powerful winds, tornadoes and large hail.
The hazardous forecast is a result of strong southerly winds transporting copious amounts of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico north, where they will interact with the strengthening storm system.
In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem ordered state executive branch offices to be closed on Friday in parts of the state, as freezing rain, snow and high winds were expected. Many counties were under blizzard or ice storm warnings.
Joe Biden boarded Air Force One on Friday morning to visit Rolling Fork with the First Lady
The severe weather event last week produced hail the size of golf balls as it swept through several southern states
A rescuer is seen wading through the debris in Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 25 after the rural town was battered by tornadoes which left 25 dead
The weather service is also forecasting a further batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same general area as last week. At least the first 10 days of April will be rough, Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
Last Friday night’s vicious tornado in Mississippi killed dozens of people, injured many more and flattened entire blocks as it carved a path of destruction for more than an hour.
About 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The toll was especially steep in western Mississippi’s Sharkey County, where 13 people were killed in a county of 3,700 residents. Winds of up to 200 mph (322 kph) barreled through the rural farming town of Rolling Fork, reducing homes to piles of rubble, flipping cars and toppling the town’s water tower.
Bill Bunting, the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center chief of forecasting operations, said people need to have a severe weather plan in place that includes multiple ways to receive storm warning information.
‘We’ve all seen the coverage of the heartbreaking situations in other parts of the country. Our fervent hope is that people pay attention to the forecasts that have been out for several days now regarding Friday’s threat,’ Bunting said.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Rolling Fork on Friday.
Biden is expected to announce that the federal government will cover the total cost of the Mississippi’s emergency measures for the next 30 days, including overtime for first responders and debris cleanup.
Women hug among the rubble of a home as cleanup continues in the aftermath of Friday’s tornado on March 28, 2023 in Rolling Fork
A woman walks near an uprooted tree, a flipped vehicle and debris from homes damaged by a tornado, Monday, March 27, 2023, in Rolling Fork
The president and first lady will survey the damage, meet with homeowners impacted by the storms and first responders and get an operational briefing from federal and state officials. They’re expected to be joined by Governor Tate Reeves, Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Bennie Thompson.
In a statement after the tornado, Biden pledged that the federal government would ‘do everything we can to help’.
‘We will be there as long as it takes,’ he said. ‘We will work together to deliver the support you need to recover.’
Presidents regularly visit parts of the US that have been ravaged by natural disasters or suffered major loss of life from shootings or another disaster.
Republicans have criticized Biden for not yet making a trip to the site of a toxic chemical spill in a small Ohio town. He also has to decide whether to visit Nashville after three children and three adults were shot and killed at Covenant School.
Last week’s severe weather makes life even more difficult in an area already struggling economically. Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and the majority-Black Delta has long been one of the poorest parts of the state — a place where many people live paycheck to paycheck, often in jobs connected to agriculture.