Forecasters are warning of severe storms as a powerful system moves across the central United States, the start of what could a turbulent stretch of spring weather over the next few days.
Nearly 19 million people living from Michigan to south Texas are at some risk of severe storms Friday, according to the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
The bull's-eye for some of the most fearsome weather — including possible tornadoes — is over parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and east Texas on Friday, forecasters said.
More storms are expected to fire up over the southern plains and Gulf Coast region in the next 7-10 days, meteorologists said.
"We have a very active pattern unfolding," said Bill Bunting, the center's chief of forecast operations. "We're getting into the more active time of the year, especially across the central and southern U.S., and that will gradually shift northward throughout the spring."
Though tornado season is just beginning in the U.S., the number of known tornado deaths in the nation is already more than double the number from 2016, Bunting said. There were 17 fatalities attributed to tornadoes in 2016, and there have been 24 deaths so far this year, he said.
Bunting advises people to have multiple ways of getting severe weather warnings, including smart phone apps and weather radios with loud alarms to wake people when severe weather threatens at night, Bunting said.
"This time of the year it's not uncommon to have storms at night and they can be fast-moving," he said.
On Friday, there's an enhanced risk of severe weather in an area that includes Shreveport, Louisiana; and the city of Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas. That zone is home to nearly 1.4 million people, and forecasters are warning them to expect storms and possible tornadoes through Friday evening.
"We do expect that some of the storms that form will have the potential to produce tornadoes," Bunting said of the region commonly known as the Ark-La-Tex. "I don't think we'll see necessarily a large outbreak, but we will see the potential for tornadoes."