Severe storm threat shifts to Ohio Valley, southern US

DALLAS (AP) — An unsettled weather pattern that so far this week has contributed to the deaths of six people in the Southern Plains shifted into the Ohio Valley and southern United States on Thursday, but forecasters say the next round of severe weather won’t be as bad as initially anticipated.

The Storm Prediction Center rolled back what had been a relatively ominous outlook and said that while some tornadoes could occur Thursday, the likelihood of several twisters was low. Morning storms along the Gulf Coast and in the Upper Midwest reduced the risk for “robust” instability later in the day, the forecasters said.

The greatest chance of severe storms is expected in an area from St. Louis to Indianapolis to Cincinnati to Nashville, Tennessee. Other storms could occur from Ohio to the Gulf coast.

This week’s storms contributed to the deaths of three storm chasers in West Texas, two children who touched a downed power line in Fort Worth, Texas, and a truck driver whose rig was blown off Interstate 40 in El Reno, Oklahoma.

As late as Wednesday, the Norman, Oklahoma-based center was predicting an “active weather event” Thursday from New Orleans to Cincinnati. While hail, high winds and tornadoes could occur, the energy needed to produce the worst storms likely wouldn’t be present, the forecasters said Thursday.

The National Weather Service said a tornado with winds between 60 and 110 mph (100-175 kph) struck an apartment complex in southwestern Houston on Wednesday morning, damaging carports, windows and roofs. No injuries were reported following the tornado, rated as an EF-0 or an EF-1 on a six-level scale of tornado damage. Later Wednesday, damaging winds knocked a shipping container on a truck, injuring two near LaPorte, 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Houston. The Port of Houston said it didn’t know if a twister was to blame.

Fire officials in Fort Worth said Wednesday that two boys, ages 11 and 12, were electrocuted by power lines downed during the violent weather.

In Oklahoma, a truck driver was killed Tuesday night after strong winds pushed his rig off the interstate in El Reno, outside Oklahoma City, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Forecasters confirmed a 95 mph (150 kph) wind gust in the area when the crash occurred.

In Texas, the three storm chasers — including two who were contractors for The Weather Channel — were killed in a collision at a remote intersection near the town of Spur, about 55 miles (90 km) southeast of Lubbock.

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