Another Katrina? Tornado season intensifies
UPDATE (12:10pm, 02/03): President Bush is set to visit two locations--likely in the hardest hit areas of Alabama and Missouri, though officials won't disclose just where yet--where this year's tornadoes have hit hardest. The visit will take place tomorrow, and is likely due to criticism about the handling of Katrina. Updates to follow.
UPDATE: Residents of the effected areas have been submitting some incredible photos of the storms' wake. View our slideshow.
Reuters is reporting that ,"The likelihood of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season is growing as a Pacific Ocean El Nino system, which drove storms away from the Gulf Coast in 2006, ended in the past few weeks." Whether this season will be worse or comparable to storm seasons past remains unknown at this point, but experts are saying that the determining factor could be in New Orleans--if a storm touches down there, then the season's severity rating is likely to go up.
As the most recent wave of storms subsides, its reported that twenty people have died this storm season so far, including five Alabama high school students whose school was "right in the path" of the tornado. The school collapsed on them before they could escape.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said the storm system could "potentially be the worst tornado outbreak in years." Myers predicts this system could generate as many as 50 tornadoes.
In Illinois and Missouri, dozens of counties were under tornado watches Thursday morning, and Myers said the Southeast can expect more watches and warnings as the sun "heats things up."
'Particularly dangerous situation' in Georgia
Tornado warnings already were in effect Thursday morning in parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
In much of Georgia, the weather service issued a "particularly dangerous situation" watch until 9 p.m. ET as meteorologists were expecting a band of harsh storms to strike during Atlanta's usually messy rush hour.
The weather service declared the storm's projected path a high-risk area, "which is a pretty rare forecast for us," one meteorologist said.
John Hart, a lead forecaster for the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said high-risk forecasts are issued about three times a year.