Wind, rain to pound portions of Michigan, but severe weather forecast to plague southern U.S.

The Detroit News

Southern Michigan will have wind and rain to weather for much of Thursday, as a cold front moves across the state.

Wind advisories go into effect at 11 a.m. for the counties of Midland, Bay, Huron, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee and Monroe through 8 p.m. Northeast winds 20 to 25 mph with gusts up to 45 mph are expected.

Wind will be the story for Thursday, along with some rain in southern Michigan.

A wind advisory is already in effect for Muskegon, Montcalm, Gratiot, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Clinton, Allegan, Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Jackson counties, also until 8 p.m. A gale warning is in effect for Lake Michigan, from St. Joseph to Pentwater, until 5 a.m. Friday.

"Some isolated wind gusts to 45 mph cannot be totally ruled out for locations south," the National Weather Service says.

The northeast winds have brought the possibility of lakeshore flooding, with the most significant risk in Monroe County along Lake Erie and into Toledo. A lakeshore flood warning will be in effect for those regions from 11 a.m. today through 4 a.m. Friday. A flood advisory will be in effect those same hours for counties north of Monroe, including Wayne, Macomb, Bay, Tuscola, St. Clair, Huron and Sanilac. 

Additionally, there is a gale warning for Lake St. Clair and portions of Lake Huron from 11 a.m. today to 4 a.m. Friday.

Flooding remains a concern along the eastern parts of the state near Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron.

The blustery conditions are all part of a system that is moving across the eastern half of the U.S. today, with the possibility of severe weather concentrated in the Deep South  and eastern portions of the country.

A wave of storms pounded Texas, Louisiana and Alabama throughout the day Wednesday, leaving a trail of splintered trees and damaged buildings.

Scattered severe thunderstorms are expected Thursday for portions of eastern Georgia, through the Carolinas into extreme southeast Virginia, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. All severe hazards are possible. Other isolated severe storms are possible from southern Ohio into the central Appalachians.

The biggest overnight threat of tornadoes remained over Alabama, according to the weather service, but severe storms and tornadoes were possible from east-central Georgia and northeast across South and North Carolina later in the day Thursday.

“Significant tornadoes, wind damage and large hail will be possible from morning into afternoon,” the center advised late Wednesday. “Severe thunderstorms will also be possible from parts of the eastern Gulf Coast into the southern and central Appalachians.”

The weather service advised residents throughout the region to keep the volume up on cellphones to hear emergency alerts throughout the night.

Early Thursday there were no storm warnings across the metro Atlanta area but intense lightning, heavy rain and strong wind gusts of up to 40-50 mph were moving through the area.

Morehouse College tweeted that it was delaying the opening of its campus until 11 a.m. and that faculty and staff should not arrive until after that time. All classes before then were to be held virtually, it said.

While nearly 16 million people in the Southeast could see powerful storms, the prediction center said, a region of about 3 million stretching from southeastern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana across Mississippi into Alabama was at high risk for big twisters that stay on the ground for miles, straight winds up to 80 mph and destructive hail.

A road crew passes downed trees after a tornado came through on St. Patrick's Day in Wayne County, Miss., Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Forecasters believe more severe weather is expected Thursday with the potential for massive tornadoes, downpours and hail the size of tennis balls.

In South Carolina, the severe weather threat led the state Senate president to caution senators to state home Thursday while urging staff to work remotely for their safety. House Speaker Jay Lucas said that chamber would meet less than an hour Thursday to take up routine motions in advance of a budget debate next week — then adjourn.

“If you are in a situation where it is perilous that you come, I’m asking you not to come,” Lucas said. “If you can come, give us a quorum and do these few things we need to do, we will be out of here in a hurry.”

Nearly all of South Carolina is under moderate risk of severe storms. The forecast led a number of the state’s school systems to call off in-person classes Thursday and have students and teachers meet online.

Possible tornadoes on Wednesday knocked down trees, toppled power lines and damaged homes in rural Chilton County and the Alabama communities of Burnsville and Moundville, where power was out and trees blocked a main highway.

WTVM-TV reports that Jimmy Baker, whose home was one of at least three destroyed in Chilton, watched as the storm headed toward his house.

“Then about a minute before it got here, we jumped. . . in the hall closet, a little, small closet," Baker said. “And just we heard it. You know, the sound from the house coming down. We were saved. We thank the Lord for that,” he said.

“Downtown Moundville got it. Some roofs and stuff got taken off houses,” said Michael Brown, whose family owns Moundville Ace Hardware and Building. “There’s a lot of trees down. I guess it had to be a tornado; it got out of here pretty fast.”

Additional damage was reported in Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi, where video showed an apparent tornado at Brookhaven. High winds blew down signs and trees in northeast Texas, and hailstones the size of baseballs were reported near the Alabama-Mississippi line, the weather service said.

More than 70,000 homes and businesses were without power from Texas to Alabama, and radar showed additional storms moving across the region as initial cleanup work began.