Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on Saturday as heavy rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and strong winds that impacted the western, eastern and south-central parts of the state.
The weather caused flash flooding, loss of power and damage of public infrastructure and private properties, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Tornadoes, flooding and other severe weather are expected on Saturday night to continue plaguing parts of the South caught between a winter storm to the northwest and balmy weather to the southeast.
As of Saturday night, much of Kentucky and West Virginia were under a flood warning. Portions of eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were under a tornado watch.
The first day of 2022 has become part of a recent rash of wild weather, including devastating tornadoes across multiple states, drenching rains in Southern California and gusting winds in Colorado that fueled a devastating wildfire.
“From bitterly cold wind chills and travel-disruptive snowfall totals to severe storms and flash flooding, (the weather) will make for a treacherous start to 2022,” National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Mullinax said in an online forecast.
In the South on New Year’s Day, another round of severe storms plagued the region, where scores of people were killed in tornadoes last month.
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A tornado touched down in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and caused “severe damage” to downtown businesses, the statement said. A possible tornado touchdown was reported in Taylor County, Kentucky, and “numerous” households were been damaged. In Columbia, Kentucky, flash flooding led to water rescues Saturday, WBKO-TV reported.
“It is devastating that we are once again experiencing severe weather just weeks after the deadly tornadoes hit Western Kentucky. Sadly, some counties have been affected by both of these events,” Beshear said in the statement.
In northern Georgia, a tornado struck Newton County on Friday evening, downing power lines, overturning vehicles and uprooting trees, according to the National Weather Service in Atlanta. The storm damaged a school building and left a handful of people with minor injuries, the Covington News reported.
“Potentially life-threatening” flash flooding, tornadoes, high winds and large hail were possible from parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys over the weekend, a Weather Prediction Center forecast said. Cities most at risk for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes late Saturday were Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta.
“The main window for damaging wind gusts, a few brief tornadoes, and hail is OVERNIGHT,” the National Weather Service in Atlanta said on Twitter. “Please ensure you have multiple ways to receive warnings tonight before you go to sleep, and keep your phone/weather radio volume at a level that will wake you if warnings are issued!”
Mississippi can expect damaging wind gusts of 60-70 mph with large hail up to golf ball size. Tornadoes also will be possible. The threat of severe weather is greater in northern Mississippi, NWS reported.
The severe weather in the South comes as winter storm warnings were in place for parts of nine states from the Four Corners region to the central Plains, and travel-halting snowfall was possible in at least 18 states, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reported.
In Chicago, 800 flights were canceled Saturday at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport due to the wintry weather, along with coronavirus-related staffing shortages.
Heavy snow was expected to spread from the Central Plains to the Mississippi Valley and Lower Great Lakes. Up to a foot of snow was likely from northeast Kansas to the Chicago Metro area, a Weather Prediction Center forecast said. Freezing rain and sleet was possible from eastern Kansas into central to northern Missouri and west central Illinois.
“We are continuing to see snow accumulating on the roads,” the National Weather Service in Chicago said on Twitter Saturday afternoon, warning of steady snowfall through the evening.
Intense cold was expected to continue across much of the north-central U.S., where wind chill readings will drop to as low as 50 below zero in some areas, including Montana and North Dakota, over the next few days. “The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes,” the National Weather Service warned.
At the same time, unusual warmth could lead to hundreds of record-high temperatures across the southeastern U.S., the Weather Service said. Record highs were forecast Saturday from south and eastern Texas and across much of the Gulf Coast, the Southeast and Florida — and from Florida into the mid-Atlantic on Sunday. Temperatures were expected to soar into the springlike 70s and 80s.
The first weekend weather of 2022 comes after storms drenched southern California on Thursday as downtown Los Angeles saw record Dec. 30 rainfall with 2.57 inches, breaking the previous daily record set in 1936, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, extreme winds in Colorado fueled devastating wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes. Snow helped firefighting efforts Friday but was complicating recovery efforts Saturday, when the town of Superior shut off water in the burn areas to prevent pipes from freezing.
Contributing: Mississippi Clarion-Ledger; The Associated Press