“Many residents have been displaced from their homes and numerous businesses have reported significant damages,” he said, adding there have been no reported deaths.
The southeastern part of the city sustained significant damage, local authorities said. They announced road closures following reports of downed power lines, trees and traffic lights.
The rainfall could lead to flash flooding over parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, the Weather Prediction Center said.
The greatest concern is for tornadoes
The SPC issued at least seven tornado watches Wednesday. Those that remained active tWednesday night included a tornado watch for southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans, and parts of southern Mississippi until 9 p.m. CDT.
There was also a tornado watch across central Tennessee and much of Alabama until 1 a.m. CDT Thursday and another watch for southeast Mississippi, and parts of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle until 4 a.m. CDT.
A moderate risk –– level 4 of 5 — for severe storms covered Mississippi and included portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee, and Florida. In addition to Jackson, cities like Memphis in Tennessee, Baton Rouge in Louisiana, and Mobile and Montgomery in Alabama are all in this risk category.
The bulk of the most vigorous activity is expected to become severe as it quickly crosses the Mississippi River into Mississippi, western Tennessee and Kentucky, the SPC said.
“We are expecting a long duration severe weather event today with damaging winds even before the storms arrive and destructive winds during the main event,” Logan Poole, a meteorologist with the NWS in Jackson, told CNN.
High winds fuel brush fire in Tennessee
All across the South, winds are forecast to be strong ahead of the main line of storms which will have even stronger winds. Even before the storms approach, there could be damaging wind gusts of nearly 60 mph out of the south.
High wind warnings are in effect ahead of the line of storms stretching from northwestern Tennessee to the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
“This will certainly be widespread and likely to affect a larger portion of our population,” the NWS in Jackson wrote. “Winds up to 80 mph, in addition to the gradient wind ahead of the line, will pose risks of downed trees and powerlines and result in power outages.
The storm threat will continue through the evening hours and overnight, with storms hitting places like New Orleans, which is at a severe risk level 3 of 5, just about sunset.
As the storms make their way east across Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, they will begin to lose some of their potency before reaching places like Atlanta in the early morning hours.
A near-record March for tornadoes
As of Wednesday morning, the SPC had tallied at least 187 preliminary reports of tornadoes in March. This is more than 233% of normal and just four shy of the highest March tornado count in recorded history (191 in March 2021), according to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.
On average, March averages about 80 tornadoes across the country.
Though the March record may be broken in a few hours with Wednesday’s storms, another tornado record has been standing far longer. The nation is currently in the midst of its longest stretch without an EF-5 tornado, says Javaheri. “You would have to go back nearly a decade to May 20, 2013, for the last EF-5 in the country.”
Since that time, at least 11,322 tornadoes have touched down in the US, without a single one reaching the EF-5 threshold (200+ mph).
“This is a streak we’ll hope to continue today.”
CNN’s Laura James, Taylor Ward and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.