The first severe weather threat of 2014 was taking shape across the Ohio and Tennessee valleys Thursday morning, with meteorologists warning of a relatively wide swath of severe weather from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians.
Forecasters say a line of thunderstorms will develop ahead of a cold front on Thursday afternoon and move west-to-east across the region. Damaging winds are considered the primary threat, and meteorologists at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said Thursday morning that a few tornadoes could not be ruled out, especially across the western half of Tennessee and portions of Kentucky and Alabama.
"Corridors of substantial wind damage appear likely along the squall line track, along with a few tornadoes," Storm Prediction Center meteorologist Corey Mead warned in an update Thursday morning.
The greatest risk for damaging winds and isolated tornadoes, according to the Storm Prediction Center, was over western and middle Tennessee, as well as northwest Alabama and western and central Kentucky.
However, the Cumberland Plateau and East Tennessee are also in the severe weather risk area, according to the SPC. From the plateau to Nashville, the SPC identified a 30 percent risk for damaging winds; that risk was 45 percent between Nashville and Memphis.
Locally, the estimated time of arrival for the line of storms is during the late evening hours, perhaps closer to midnight.
Prior to the storms' arrival, gusty winds were expected across the region. The National Weather Service in Morristown on Thursday morning issued a wind advisory for Scott, Campbell and Morgan counties, calling for wind gusts up to 45 mph. The NWS in Nashville had already issued a similar advisory for Fentress and Pickett counties, along with the rest of Middle Tennessee. The wind advisory is set to take effect at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon and continue until 4 a.m. Friday morning.
Ironically, this week is severe weather awareness week across the nation. The National Weather Service has been urging residents to prepare for the upcoming severe weather season, which peaks during the early spring.
"Being prepared for inclement weather can mean the difference between life or death," said Paul Strunk, Scott County Emergency Management Agency interim director. "Everyone should take time to assess their risks and develop a plan of response."