Severe thunderstorms, possible tornadoes could hit Gulf Coast overnight: What we know

Severe storms, isolated tornadoes, high winds and flooding rainfall are possible along the Gulf Coast on Tuesday into Wednesday as a cold front moves through the region.

The latest: Severe weather in the Houston, Texas area has forced ground stops at both of the city's major airports. The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for Harris County, Texas after a "large and extremely dangerous tornado" was confirmed in the area. The warning expired as the system moved to the east.

Where will the weather hit? Parts of southern Texas near Houston, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and western Florida are expected to see strong to severe thunderstorms and possibly flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service. A tornado watch was issued for parts of Louisiana and Texas until 6 p.m. local time.

Possible damage: The severe thunderstorms could bring damaging winds with gusts from 55 to 65 mph, large hail, heavy rain and the possibility of isolated tornadoes, according to Accuweather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham.

Other storms: A separate storm system is expected to bring heavy snow from New Mexico to Ohio through the middle of the week. More than 17.7 million people were under a winter storm warning as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the weather service .

Here's what we know:

Severe storms moving through Panhandle Jan. 24-25, 2023.
Severe storms moving through Panhandle Jan. 24-25, 2023.

Will the South see more tornadoes?

The NWS confirmed a tornado was located over northwestern Baytown, Texas Tuesday afternoon. Weather officials warned that heavy rainfall may hide the tornado from some on the ground. The emergency covers a population of over 335,000 people, according to Accuweather.

'This is a PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. TAKE COVER NOW!" the service wrote in a statement.

There is an "enhanced risk" for severe thunderstorms from the mid-Texas coast to the western Florida Panhandle on Tuesday into early Wednesday, meaning a few tornadoes and damaging winds are possible, according to the weather service Storm Prediction Center.

"It only takes one thunderstorm to trek over one specific neighborhood or metropolitan area to produce some pretty serious damage," Buckingham said on Tuesday. "Tomorrow's tornado threat may not be quite as high as what we expect today. But again, it's a nonzero threat."

The threat of severe thunderstorms is expected to shift toward the Atlantic Coast, including the Outer Banks of North Carolina, late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, before the front finally works its way off the Atlantic coast on Thursday, Buckingham said.

How to prepare for severe weather – especially overnight

The severe storm system in the South may be especially dangerous because it will happen  overnight in Louisiana and the Florida coast, Buckingham said.

"If folks have already gone to sleep, we really do encourage residents to have a way to receive any watches or warnings that may be posted across the area, just to provide that little bit of extra time to prepare or move to a safer space if needed," he said.

You can prepare for an overnight storm by:

  • Keeping a flashlight, warm coat and pair of shoes next to your bed .

  • Turning on audible storm alerts on your phone or a weather radio to wake you up for severe warnings.

  • Having a plan in place for where to shelter in your home in case of severe storms or tornadoes

The threat of damaging storms comes after tornadoes killed nine people and caused extensive damage across Alabama and Georgia just two weeks ago. Homes with ripped-off roofs and uprooted trees could be seen in central Alabama, and a tornado tore a path through downtown Selma causing collapsed buildings, flipped cars and mangled power lines.

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Contributing: Cheryl McCloud and Benjamin Johnson, Pensacola News Journal; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Severe storms, tornadoes to hit Gulf Coast: What to know