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Strong Storms to End 2020 with a Bang for Southern US

(Image credit: Accuweather)

In the days leading up to the Christmas holiday, severe storms tore through portions of the Gulf Coast. Now, in the final days of 2020, residents may experience a sense of déjà vu as another threat for severe weather looms.

From the evening of Dec. 23 to the morning hours of Dec. 24, a line of damaging storms rocked the Gulf Coast from eastern Texas to Mississippi. These storms were responsible for many instances of wind damage as well as five confirmed tornadoes.

An atmospheric setup similar to the pattern that triggered the severe weather outbreak before Christmas will build into the region leading up to New Year's Eve.

The same storm system set to bring heavy snow and ice to the center of the country will work to produce a threat for gusty thunderstorms for the western Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, a cold front is forecast to push southward across the Plains and approach the western Gulf Coast. Thunderstorms capable of producing locally damaging winds and heavy rain are expected bubble to life across eastern Texas by the early afternoon hours. These storms are then projected to track eastward and begin to impact portions of western Louisiana during Wednesday night.

Motorists in the area, especially those traveling on interstates 10, 20 and 45, will need to be prepared for rapidly changing conditions. Within any deluge of heavy rain, visibility will be drastically reduced and may lead to accidents for careless drivers.

Cities potentially in the path of these gusty thunderstorms Wednesday and Wednesday night include Houston, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

A few of the thunderstorms that fire up on Wednesday may even gain enough strength to produce damaging severe-level wind gusts. Damage to trees and localized power outages may occur as a result of any stronger storm.


Although a few thunderstorms may become feisty on Wednesday, the greatest risk for widespread severe thunderstorms to develop will come on the final day of 2020.

"A low pressure system will develop at the surface along a slow-moving cold front and track into the lower Mississippi River Valley on New Year's Eve," AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Sadvary said. "This setup will be favorable for strong-to-severe thunderstorms."

While some gusty thunderstorms leftover from the overnight activity on Wednesday may still be ongoing early Thursday in western Louisiana, the more worrisome activity will develop later Thursday afternoon as the low pressure strengthens.

On Thursday, strong-to-severe thunderstorms will develop across portions of the Gulf Coast, with a bull's-eye over Louisiana and Mississippi.

The most prevalent threats with these severe thunderstorms will be damaging wind gusts with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 65 mph and heavy downpours. Due to an abundance of warm, moist air flowing inland from the Gulf of Mexico and feeding these storms, flash flooding is likely to occur, especially in urban areas.

In addition to damaging wind gusts and flooding rainfall, another potent threat may spring to life across the Gulf Coast.

"Waterspouts and isolated tornadoes will be possible, especially near the coast," Sadvary cautioned.

With many people forced to celebrate the end of 2020 differently due to the ongoing pandemic, those planning outdoor celebrations will need to keep a close eye on the forecast for their area. Residents hoping to participate in the countdown to 2021 outdoors should be prepared to seek shelter indoors if necessary as damaging storms progress eastward on Thursday.

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