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Tornadoes are expected in parts of the south on Friday

Severe thunderstorms were expected to sweep across parts of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys on Friday, increasing the risk of tornadoes, wind damage and hail for millions of people, forecasters said.

The storms should continue into the evening hours, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

More than 2.3 million people from southwest Tennessee through parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and northeast Louisiana were at moderate risk of severe weather.

A larger area in these states was at increased risk.

“For the temperate region, tornadoes are likely and some could be strong,” said Dan Byrd, weather forecaster with the Jackson, Mississippi, weather service on Friday morning. Damaging winds of up to 80 miles per hour and large hail were also possible in the moderate-risk area.

“The time frame we’re looking at is from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and then it’s going to shift to central Mississippi into the early hours of the night,” he said. “Then it will move out of the state, probably around 2 or 3 a.m..”

“It really looks like these evening hours will be the key period where we could see the greatest potential for tornadoes,” Mr. Byrd said.

A similar forecast was issued for Little Rock, Ark., where forecasters said hail of up to a quarter magnitude is expected and that “all types of severe weather” are possible on Friday, including tornadoes.

Between one and two inches of rain had fallen across much of northern Arkansas by Friday afternoon, according to the Little Rock Weather Service, which issued severe weather warnings for various counties throughout the afternoon.

Because of the heavy rainfall associated with the storms, areas from the Ozarks to the Ohio Valley were at moderate risk of excessive rainfall. More broadly, about 18 million people from eastern Oklahoma to Ohio and West Virginia were under flood surveillance.

Officials in Mississippi on Friday urged residents to find a safe spot during tornadoes during Officials in Tennessee recalled Local residents that the spring weather could be unpredictable.

The severe weather season in the south peaks in the months of March, April and May, meteorologists said.

Thunderstorms are classified as violent if they produce at least a quarter-size hail or wind gusts of at least 90 km/h

Earlier this month, powerful storms swept across the South, leaving at least 12 dead and hundreds of thousands of customers without power. Heavy rains, strong winds and tornadoes damaged homes in at least eight states.

And in late February, tornadoes in Oklahoma injured at least a dozen people.

Johnny Diaz contributed to the coverage.