The storm that will threaten the eastern United States with rain, wind and snow through the Christmas holiday can also unleash severe thunderstorms across southern portions of the storm as people finish up their last minute holiday preparations.
Similar to a storm that swept across the Southeast last week, the storm forecast to bring a cold front through the Southeast through Christmas Eve will have the ingredients needed to produce intense thunderstorms.
The energy from this storm will dip as far south as the Gulf Coast, which will allow the storm to strengthen as well as pull in more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. This will create a moist and unstable environment that can allow thunderstorms to thrive.
The severe weather kicked off Wednesday evening as the storm’s cold front moved over Louisiana. By 10:52 p.m., CST, on Wednesday the Storm Prediction Center issued a tornado watch for portions of southern Louisiana into Mississippi.
As of late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning there were a few reports of gusty winds from the storms.
The threat for severe storms will continue and even increase on Thursday with nearly 5 million people located in areas expected to be impacted by intense thunderstorms.
“The most likely time for severe weather on a more regional basis is from the daylight hours on Christmas Eve to the first part of Christmas Eve night,” stated AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
While the line of thunderstorms that arrived in the Southeast late Wednesday continues to progress across Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle on Thursday, additional thunderstorms will begin to develop over the Carolinas.
Anyone out traveling or finishing up last minute Christmas errands is reminded to be aware of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions and updates from local sources as thunderstorms may threaten the region with blinding downpours, strong wind gusts and even isolated tornadoes.
“Perhaps the greatest threat for a couple of tornadoes with this particular storm is in eastern North Carolina due to how the atmosphere is likely to be stacked from the surface to aloft,” stated AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.
There is the potential for severe storms to reach the central counties of the Florida Peninsula during the night on Christmas Eve, including areas that were ransacked by multiple damaging tornadoes that struck the Tampa area last Wednesday.
Thunderstorms along the East coast can also reach as far north as southern Maryland into Thursday night. While lightning strikes may become more widely separated farther north in Virginia and Maryland, strong wind gusts can lead to localized power outages and may toss around any outdoor furniture or Christmas decorations that are not secured.
By late Thursday night, the severe threat will wane across the Southeast and mid-Atlantic states as the cold front sweeps out over the Atlantic Ocean and a drier, more stable air mass filters into the region. This air mass will cause a significant drop in temperature for Christmas Day.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.