Heavy rain, thunderstorms, punishing winds and tornadoes battered parts of the American South late Tuesday and early Wednesday, leading to the deaths of at least two people in Montgomery County, Ala., after an emergency official said a tree fell on their home.
At least four confirmed tornadoes swept across the region on Tuesday night, with forecasters warning of unusually treacherous conditions and some areas reported hail as large as two inches.
As of early Wednesday, the National Weather Service office in Mobile, Ala., was urging residents to seek shelter as a “large and damaging” active tornado tore through a rural area. “Damaging winds will be the primary threat,” the Weather Service said at 4:40 a.m. local time, adding that a few additional tornadoes could be possible.
Christina Thornton, the director of the Montgomery County, Ala., emergency management department, said that in addition to the two deaths, one other person in the same home was injured.
“That area and community is devastated, with lines down, trees down and roadways blocked,” Ms. Thornton said, adding that search-and-rescue operations had finished.
According to preliminary reports, Alabama bore the brunt of the damage, with heavy rains and significant damage, including trees on homes and blocking roads and power lines down, according to the Facebook page of Montgomery County’s emergency management department. Nearly 30,000 customers in Alabama were without power as of Wednesday morning, according to the site poweroutage.us. More than 30 homes had been damaged in Hale County, according to a report by an ABC affiliate, WBMA, in the state.
The storms were expected to weaken later Wednesday. But as of 8 a.m., more than 700,000 people in Louisiana and Florida were still under tornado watches, meaning that additional tornadoes were possible, ” rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>according to the Weather Service. Some schools in Alabama announced two-hour delayson Wednesday.
The storm system was expected to bring rain to the Northeast in the afternoon, said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist with the Weather Service.
A cold front was also expected to hit the South, said Lance Perrilloux, a Weather Service meteorologist in Jackson, Miss.
Tornadoes in the South are not unheard-of this time of year. On average, 54 tornadoes are reported in November across the United States. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida have historically reported the most tornadoes in November.
The fall weather season is viewed as a sort of “secondary time for severe weather,” said Matt Hemingway, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Shreveport, La.
Mississippi confirmed two tornadoes on Tuesday night, according to the Weather Service: One in Lowndes County in eastern Mississippi, and the other near Paulding, Miss., about 90 miles east of Jackson. The strength of the tornadoes was unclear, but Mr. Perrilloux said that they had knocked down power lines and trees.
In Lowndes County, people who were trapped in buildings damaged by the storm, including a grocery store, made it out safely, the local TV station, WTVA, reported.
In Vaiden, hail between 1.5 and 2 inches belted the small town in central Mississippi, Mr. Perrilloux said.
Mr. Perrilloux said that the storm system was particularly unusual because of how spread out it was across Mississippi. An unstable atmosphere meant that “some people haven’t had any rain, and others are getting powerful storms,” he said.
Another tornado was confirmed on Tuesday in Caldwell Parish, La., and meteorologists planned to measure its strength later in the week, said Mr. Hemingway with the Weather Service in Shreveport.
Freddy Mercer, a spokesman with the Caldwell Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said by phone that one house had been destroyed, and that a man inside it had bruised his ribs. Besides that, there were no other reports on Tuesday night of injuries, he added.
“We’ve seen much, much worse than this storm,” Mr. Mercer said.
In western Louisiana, tornado warnings advising people to take shelter were issued throughout Tuesday night as thunderstorms rolled through parts of the state.
In Alabama, a tornado was confirmed in Eutaw, about 86 miles southwest of Birmingham, where officials reported damage to apartment buildings and other structures, according to Gerald Satterwhite, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Birmingham.
Tornadoes occur when there is a perfect mix of temperature, moisture profile and wind profile inside large rotating thunderstorms. Scientists remain unsure about the role that climate change may play in the intensity and frequency of tornadoes.