A wide range of extreme weather is stretching across the US as storms threaten heavy snow in the Southwest and a severe weather system is bringing the triple threat of tornadoes, damaging winds and rain to the South.
About 35 million people across parts of the South and Southern Plains are at risk Thursday for severe thunderstorms – the worst of which could bring multiple rounds of ferocious winds, large hail and tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center said.
“Thursday and Thursday night: An intensifying system is expected to produce significant severe storms and heavy rain that could cause flash flooding,” the National Weather Service warned. “Think now about what (to) do during a warning wherever you expect to be.”
The Storm Prediction Center on Thursday evening listed several tornado reports in Texas and one in Louisiana as of 7:40 p.m. CT.
In Shreveport, Louisiana, David Langston was inside a dry cleaning store when a tornado hit, he told CNN affiliate KSLA.
“The wind started picking up, and this lady said, ‘My babies are in the car,’” Langston told the station. “And she wanted me to help her, and I said, ‘Let’s go.’ But then all of a sudden, the wind got so bad that I said, ‘No ma’am, don’t go out.’ “
Her car was underneath a sign. If we had gone out there, I mean, we would have been hit by that sign.”
Langston said they rescued the two young children, unharmed, after the winds died down. “It just came up, and 20 seconds later it was gone,” he said. “And I mean, total chaos. Glass breaking out everywhere.”
A tornado watch issued Thursday evening for parts of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana was set to run until midnight.
A Level 4 of 5 moderate threat of severe storms is in place for over 8 million people in eastern Texas, northern Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. Those areas include Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; and Shreveport, Louisiana.
Storms coincided with power outages in Texas. More than 320,000 homes and businesses in Texas were without power as of 9:15 p.m. CT, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area Thursday afternoon also was put under a tornado watch that was scheduled to last until 10 p.m. CT. A line of severe storms moving through Texas brought several wind gusts in the 60 to 80 mph range across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
In the Dallas suburb of McKinney, people were injured when four tractor-trailers in the same stretch of highway were blown over. McKinney police didn’t specify how many people were hurt.
Because of thunderstorms, a ground stop was in effect Thursday night for the airports in Austin and San Antonio, meaning planes destined for Dallas are to be held at their airports of origin, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Earlier, there was a ground stop for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Waco, Texas, face a Level 3 of 5 severe storm risk. Cities with a Level 2 of 5 risk include Houston; Austin, Texas; and Jackson, Mississippi.
In Miller County, Arkansas, two people were unhurt despite being trapped in a house that collapsed during the storms, according to Michael Godfrey, the director of the county emergency management office.
Torrential rainfall in the system is also a concern. Rain could fall as quickly as 2 inches per hour in the strongest storms, leading to flash flooding.
More than 24 million people are under flood watches from Oklahoma to Ohio. Up to 5 inches of rain is forecast across the region, and isolated totals could exceed 8 inches.
The severe weather threat will shift Friday to the Southeast and Ohio Valley on Friday, with Charlotte, Nashville, Atlanta and Louisville at risk.
And the same storm system is expected to bring heavy snow and ice to the Northeast and the Great Lakes regions by this weekend.
Mammoth snowfall in the West
This lengthy winter storm already has wreaked havoc in the West, with snow in New Mexico due to continue through Thursday afternoon. Up to 5 inches is possible in lower elevations, while 8 to 18 inches could fall across high elevations.
Heavy snow Wednesday inundated the Four Corners region where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet.
More than 22 inches of snow fell Wednesday in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, according to the local weather service office.
In Southern California, massive amounts of snow this week left some stranded and made roads impassable for days. Several areas across the state saw more than 100 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
The California Department of Transportation said they have so far removed over 7 million cubic yards of snow – enough to fill 2232 Olympic size swimming pools.
Across the state, about 52,000 homes and businesses still had no power Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
Across California, several days of heavy snow knocked out power to thousands, made roads impassable and trapped residents in their homes.
The California National Guard will arrive in the San Bernardino mountains on Thursday to help dig out snowbound communities, according to the state Office of Emergency Services (CalOES). Nearly 100 inches of snow have fallen on the Lake Arrowhead and Crestline communities in recent days.
Aerial footage from CNN affiliate shows neighborhoods with indiscernible streets, homes with snow reaching second-story windows, and a local supermarket with its roof caved in due to the heavy snow.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency for 13 counties, including San Bernardino County, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.
Mount Baldy, outside Los Angeles, has recorded 106 inches of snow since February 22. More than a quarter of all that snowfall came down in two days this week.
Huntington Lake in the Sierra Mountains was lashed with 144 inches of snow over a six-day period this week, according to the Fresno County Office of Emergency Services. The office also reported 10 to 12 feet of snow near China Peak, which led to the closure of Highway 16.
While California gets a brief reprieve from the snow for the rest of this week, another system is expected to move into Northern California this weekend.
CNN Meteorologists Dave Hennen, Robert Shackelford and Taylor Ward and CNN’s Andy Rose, Aya Elamroussi, Norma Galeana and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.