NORMAN, OK (RNN) - A severe weather system stretching from Missouri and Illinois in the North to Mississippi and Alabama in the South has killed at least nine people as of Friday afternoon.
"We'll continue to see the threat across the South today," said Greg Carbin, with the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.
The storm, which formed Thursday, was described by Carbin as a classic, springtime severe weather outbreak.
A squall line of thunderstorms has moved out and was hanging back across Mississippi on Friday afternoon. Reports indicate that tornadic storms are ripping through Mississippi, something that is likely to repeat through Alabama.
Carbin said this part of the storm will pass through to the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic on Saturday night. Things will quiet down Sunday, when most of the storm moves off shore.
The primary low pressure system of the storm remains over Missouri. New tornado watches have been issues over the eastern part of the state as well as in Southern Illinois. This main system will lift over the Great Lakes.
Carbin recommended those in the wake of the storm to use extreme caution, especially after dark. His advice: Know where to get your information and keep well-advised of the situation in your area. Additionally, those who face tornado warnings should try to get to a strong shelter.
On Friday afternoon, the storm system began moving into Alabama. As of 2 p.m., four counties were under tornado warnings.
"These storms are literally moving in from Mississippi all the way from the Southern part to the Northern part of the state and are moving across the state," said Art Faulkner, director of the Alabama Emergency Management System.
The Heart of Dixie was busy Friday prepping for several major weekend events, including a race at Talladega and A-day games at national championship-winning teams Alabama and Auburn.
Faulkner cautioned Alabama residents to be aware of their surroundings and pay close attention to the weather.
"It could very quickly turn into a system that could produce a tornado," Faulkner said.
Faulkner gave two instructions to Alabama. First, if you're traveling to one of these weekend events, don't go there until the weather moves through. Second, everyone needs to have a plan of what to do when the weather turns severe.
"It should be moved out of the state of Alabama by Saturday morning," Faulkner said.
In the meantime before those wee morning hours come, Gov. Robert Bentley, R-AL, has raised the state emergency operation center to level 3, while Faulkner and his staff diligently work to ensure the safety of those in their home state.
In Mississippi, Eric Carpenter, senior meteorologist of the Mississippi Department of Emergency Management, and his team were tracking a possibly very destructive tornado heading toward East Mississippi. The tornado had already passed through state capital Jackson, Carpenter said.
Causalities remain unconfirmed, and there is known damage to homes, automobiles and businesses.
"It certainly appears that the events in Mississippi are tornado events," Carbin said.
Carpenter said the storm seemed to be moving across Mississippi fast, but at a very hard pace.
The Sooner State was completely clear of tornado activity on Friday afternoon, according to Kevin Brown, meteorologist with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Earlier, the state was hit by over half a dozen storms that occurred back-to-back, each producing tornados, Brown said.
So far, there are two confirmed deaths on the Eastern side of the state; the Western side was untouched.
Numerous homes and at least one school were destroyed. Survey teams have been sent out to survey the extent of the damage and how significant it was.
Brown attributed the low number of casualties to safety information provided by the government leading up to sever weather like spotter training.
"Obviously with low casualties, people pay attention and know what to do, like take cover and stay aware of alerts," Brown said.
As of Friday afternoon in Arkansas, the storm system had totally exited the state.
"It's a beautiful Spring afternoon here in Central Arkansas," said Tommy Jackson, PIO for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
In Arkansas, seven people have been confirmed dead, according to Jackson. Three of the seven victims were 7 years old or younger.
Of those deaths, the two most recent - a 34-year-old female and her 7-year-old child - occurred mid-morning on Friday when a tree fell on their home.
There was no confirmed number of injured.
"So far that's pretty small," Jackson said, noting that most who were hurt were killed.
Falling trees seem to account for the majority of damage in the Natural State.
"Most of the damage was brought on by the falling trees on homes and cars," Jackson said.
Jackson said there were other scattered incidents of damage reported, such as a business that had its roof blown off.
Still, the National Weather Service has not yet declared any storm to be a tornado. There is a possibility that one or more tornados could be declared, Jackson said. For now, "severe weather" is the culprit.
Carbin said reports from Arkansas indicate that destruction was caused primarily by straight-line wind.
It remains "too early" to know if a federal disaster will be declared, Jackson said. Victims are being searched for before damage is surveyed.
Carbin said that Springtime severe weather has begun for the year.
"We're moving into that time of year where these storms are not that uncommon," he said.
So, it's time for everyone to become more vigilant of the weather that surrounds them.
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