Severe storms bringing isolated tornadoes and high winds ripped across the Deep South overnight — killing at least two in the Florida Panhandle, bringing down trees and power lines and damaging homes, as the weather threat shifted toward the East Coast.
The worst of the weather Thursday morning appeared to be at the southern end of the storm front, which was expected to bring heavy rain and high winds all along the U.S. East Coast later in the day. A portion of the Florida Panhandle was under a tornado watch through the afternoon, forecasters said.
A tornado watch was also issued through 8 p.m. ET for portions of the Carolinas.
Current Tornado Watches. (FOX Weather)
In Florida, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said Thursday morning that two were killed and two injured when a tornado touched down in the western Florida Panhandle.
The sheriff's office also said the tornado destroyed homes there. Its Facebook page shared a drone video showing the devastation in the Gilberts Mill area community. Another video showed at least one home that was obliterated, as well as trees down on another home.
At least two confirmed tornadoes injured several people Wednesday, damaged homes and businesses and downed power lines in Mississippi and Tennessee after an earlier storm caused damage in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas.
About 160,000 customers were without electricity Thursday morning in the wake of the storm along a band of states: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utilities.
In Jackson, Tennessee, widespread damage was reported in the area as a tornado warning was in effect. "Significant damage" occurred to a nursing home near Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson, according to Madison County Emergency Management Director Jason Moore.
Two people have died, and two others were injured after a severe storm hit the Florida panhandle early Thursday morning. (Washington County Sheriff's Office)
In Nashville, Tennessee, paneling fell five stories from the side of a downtown hotel Wednesday evening and onto a roof of a building below. The fire department warned the debris could become airborne as high winds continued, and some hotel guests were moved to other parts of the building due to concerns that the roof would become unstable. No injuries were immediately associated with the collapse.
Elsewhere, a warehouse roof collapsed as the storms moved through Southaven, Mississippi, near Memphis, police said. The building had been evacuated and no injuries were reported.
The Mississippi Senate suspended its work Wednesday as weather sirens blared during a tornado watch in downtown Jackson. Some employees took shelter in the Capitol basement.
Earlier Wednesday, a tornado that struck Springdale, Arkansas, and the adjoining town of Johnson, about 145 miles northwest of Little Rock, about 4 a.m. injured seven people, two critically, said Washington County, Arkansas, Emergency Management Director John Luther.
The National Weather Service said that tornado would be rated "at least EF-2," which would mean wind speeds reached 111-135 mph.
"Search and rescue teams have been deployed, as there are significant damages and injuries," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
In northwest Missouri, an EF-1 tornado with wind speeds around 90 mph struck St. Joseph on Tuesday night, according to the weather service. That tornado damaged two homes, but no injuries were reported there. Another EF-1 tornado with wind speeds around 100 mph touched down briefly before dawn Wednesday in a rural subdivision 25 miles east of Dallas, damaging two roofs, the weather service reported.
Severe storms shift east on Thursday
On Thursday, the storm threat was moving toward the East Coast, forecasters said.
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a Tornado Watch valid until 8 p.m. Eastern time for portions of southern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina. This watch area includes Fayetteville in North Carolina and Florence and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
As the storm system continued to march eastward Thursday, additional severe thunderstorms were possible from northern Florida all the way up to New York's Hudson Valley, according to FOX Weather.
The highest threat of severe weather was in the areas shaded in the darkest red on the map below, including parts of central and eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and northern Virginia.
Severe storm threat on Thursday, March 31, 2022.(FOX Weather)
Damaging wind gusts were expected to be the main concern, with the chance of a couple of tornadoes, forecasters said.
The system responsible for this week's severe weather threat will push off the East Coast by Friday.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.