The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of the Central Gulf Coast until 8:00 am (central) this morning. Several severe thunderstorms – with wind gusts of up to 60 mph – are reported in the region. Some meterologists are saying conditions are ripe for a tornado outbreak today and into tomorrow.
A “tornado outbreak” is the experience of several — generally a minimum of six — near-continuous tornadoes during a single day or consecutive days. The modern federal role in disaster response can be traced to the April 3, 1974 outbreak that produced 148 tornadoes, including six F5 twisters. The outbreak extended from Southern Michigan to middle Alabama and resulted in 330 deaths, over 5400 injuries, and billions of dollars in property damage. (A scientific paper on tornado outbreaks is available from the American Meteorological Society.)
You can track severe weather and NWS watches and warnings at the NOAA/NWS National Warning Map. This is constantly updated and allows for geographic drill-downs.
UPDATE: Up to twenty tornadoes were reported on Friday into Saturday morning. The most damage was reported along I-95 in Eastern North Carolina. Tornado warnings for Saturday (or the most current day) can be tracked at the NOAA/NWS website.