Dangerous, life-threatening flooding and severe storms unfold in East Texas, Louisiana

The Houston metro was put under a Tornado Warning on Thursday evening. Winds were estimated to have topped 70 mph in some communities.

HOUSTON – A dangerous and potentially life-threatening weather event is unfolding in East Texas and Louisiana, a region already highly saturated from relentless heavy rain in recent weeks.

Forecasters at NOAA's Weather Prediction Center (WPC) have placed the region under a rare Level 4 out of 4 "high risk" flood threat, labeling it as a "nightmare scenario."

Additionally, severe thunderstorms have triggered the issuance of Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Watches from eastern New Mexico to western Louisiana.

Nearly 10 million people are under the Tornado Watch that includes the city of Houston. Aside from possible tornadoes, severe storms could contain wind gusts to 70 mph and golf-ball sized hail.

Severe weather alerts
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Numerous rivers are flooding in this area, which has picked up as much as 25 inches of rain in the past 30 days. Some rivers have swollen to levels not seen since Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Any additional rain could result in serious flooding.

"Flood Watches extend into Mississippi," FOX Weather Meteorologist Britta Merwin said. "A lot of that will be happening tonight when folks will be sleeping. So that's the problem here. On top of having a significant flood risk, it is going to be continuing after sunset, and that's very scary."

Here's the expected rainfall through Sunday.
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More relentless showers and even strong to severe thunderstorms are pushing through the region on Thursday. This moisture will be impressive, the FOX Forecast Center said. Precipitable water, which measures the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, will climb above 2.25 inches, which is about as high as this region sees this time of year. 

A three-hour radar loop showing where showers and thunderstorms are ongoing. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are indicated in yellow. Tornado Warnings are indicated in red, while Tornado Warnings with a confirmed tornado are indicated in purple. Flash Flood Warnings are indicated in green, while Flash Flood Emergencies are indicated in pink.
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The combination of this moisture, the storms' slow movement, and the saturated ground is expected to lead to widespread and potentially significant flooding, which will continue overnight into early Friday. 

A Level 4 out of 4 "high risk" flood threat is currently in effect. This risk level accounts for 39% of flood-related fatalities and 83% of flood-related damages in the continental U.S.


A look at the Thursday flash flood threat.
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Of particular concern is the Piney Woods area of East Texas, where over 20 inches of rain has fallen in the last two weeks alone. On Thursday, storms with potential rain rates of up to 3 inches per hour are possible there.

Significant flooding was reported around the Texas A&M campus in College Station with thunderstorms training over the same area.

Thunderstorms also triggered Tornado Warnings around the Houston metro and at least 600,000 customers around the Lone Star State were without power as of Thursday evening.

Numerous rivers remain at flood stage, with record or near-record flooding ongoing along the Lower Trinity River. This additional rain is expected to prolong the duration of these rivers' flood stage. For rivers that have already seen their levels drop, water levels may again rise into the flood stage.

The flooding threat will shift to the east Friday and into early Saturday, with a Level 3 out of 4 flood risk concentrated in southeastern Mississippi and central and southwestern Alabama. The region begins to dry out this weekend.

A look at the Friday flash flood threat.
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In total, an additional 2 inches or more of rain will fall over a broad area from Texas to the Carolinas, with the heaviest rain expected from East Texas into central Alabama. More than 5 inches of rain is certainly possible in these areas.