Tornadoes that leveled parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi on Wednesday will linger over the South on Thursday and begin heading toward the Carolinas, Georgia and a sliver of Virginia, officials warned.
Thunderstorms, tornadoes and hail were expected to lash east-central Georgia, northeastern South Carolina, southern North Carolina and extreme southeast Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.
“All severe hazards are possible” the Weather Service said. Twenty-six million people were at risk.
Severe thunderstorms were also possible in the eastern Gulf Coast into the southern and central Appalachians.
NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said eastern North Carolina and South Carolina were at the greatest risk Thursday.
“I doubt we will have as many tornadoes today as yesterday, but all it takes is one into a town or city for a disaster,” he said.
In an advisory, the Weather Service encouraged people to “review your severe weather safety procedures for the possibility of dangerous weather today. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, move to a place of safety, ideally in a basement or interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.”
Early Thursday there were no storm warnings across the metro Atlanta area but intense lightning, heavy rain and strong wind gusts of up to 40-50 mph were moving through the area.
Morehouse College in Atlanta tweeted that it was delaying the opening of its campus until 11 a.m. and that faculty and staff should not arrive until after that time. All classes before then were to be held virtually, it said.
In South Carolina, the severe weather threat led the state Senate president to caution senators to state home Thursday while urging staff to work remotely for their safety. House Speaker Jay Lucas said that chamber would meet for less than an hour Thursday.
“If you are in a situation where it is perilous that you come, I’m asking you not to come,” Lucas said. “If you can come, give us a quorum and do these few things we need to do, we will be out of here in a hurry.”
Nearly all of South Carolina is under moderate risk of severe storms. The forecast led a number of the state’s school systems to call off in-person classes Thursday and have students and teachers meet online.
Nearly two dozen tornados damaged homes and ripped trees out of the ground across Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi on Wednesday.
Large vaccination clinics where hundreds of people an hour can get shots without leaving their vehicles were canceled in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. In the Mississippi capital of Jackson, state employees were warned to head to stairwells if they hear weather sirens. Near Birmingham, labor organizers canceled an outdoor event at an Amazon facility where workers are voting on union representation.
While no fatalities were reported, a mother and child suffered minor injuries in Clarke County, Alabama, Emergency Management Agency director Roy Waite said. Their home was completely destroyed and three others were damaged.
And in Lacon, Alabama, a woman whose vehicle was submerged in floodwaters was found clinging to a tree Wednesday night as responders worked to rescue her, according to officials there.
“While tree and structure damage seems fairly widespread, I have received no reports of fatalities,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I pray that remains the case as the assessment gets going. Overall, we have a lot to be grateful for, as it could have been much worse.”
Karins echoed it was a “minor miracle we made it through yesterday’s tornado outbreak with only minor injuries.”
While any of the tornadoes could have hit a town, “we were lucky, most of them hit farmland,” he said.