By Sara Powers

(CNN) – A day after a storm flattened buildings in parts of the South, strong winds are whipping parts of the country’s eastern third — and severe storms and a few tornadoes are possible Thursday across a swath of the East Coast.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation digital message board warns drivers along I-55 southbound in Jackson of a tornado warning during a rainstorm during the outbreak of severe weather in the state, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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Wind gusts of 40 mph or higher could hit states from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to parts of Michigan, Ohio and New York on Thursday morning or afternoon, creating chances of downed tree limbs and power lines, the National Weather Service said.

Also, a slight risk of severe thunderstorms exists in East Coast states Thursday from northern Florida to New York, the Storm Prediction Center said.

“Frequent lightning, severe thunderstorm wind gusts, hail and a few tornadoes” are possible there, the weather service said.

The slight severe-storm risk area covers more than 56 million people in East Coast states, including those in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Charlotte, North Carolina, the prediction center said.

tornado watch is in effect until 2 p.m. ET Thursday for parts of the Florida Panhandle and southern and middle Georgia.

A lesser, “marginal” risk of severe storms covers a further 34 million people. That area includes Jacksonville and Tampa in Florida; Cleveland; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Cleveland and Pittsburgh, according to the prediction center.

At least one injury from severe weather was reported overnight at the University of Montevallo, about 35 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama. “We are thankful that this week was spring break and that very few people were on campus during tonight’s storms,” the school said, noting it was still doing a full damage assessment.

 

Storms, with suspected tornadoes, damaged buildings in the South

 

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Storms left damage in several parts of the South on Wednesday. Twenty-four reports of tornadoes were made Wednesday — in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, the weather service said.

Workers begin cleanup at the George Elementary School gym Wednesday, March 30, 2022 in Springdale, Ark. Severe storms that included at least two tornadoes injured several people, damaged homes and businesses and downed power lines in Arkansas and Missouri overnight as twisters and hurricane-force winds were forecast in much of the Deep South on Wednesday.(Flip Putthoff/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

Strong winds — possibly a tornado — hit Springdale, Arkansas, around 4 a.m. Wednesday, Mayor Doug Sprouse said in a Facebook post. The city’s southeast bore the brunt of the storm, according to local officials, who said there were reports of downed power lines, trees and traffic lights.

Buildings were flattened, roofs were damaged and yards were covered with storm debris, according to video from CNN affiliate KHBS/KHOG,.

The gym at George Elementary School was destroyed, and the kitchen and cafeteria were severely damaged, the Springdale School District said.

“Many residents have been displaced from their homes and numerous businesses have reported significant damages,” Sprouse said.

No storm-related deaths were reported, the mayor said, but he noted two of the seven people who were hurt during the storm suffered critical injuries.

In Choctaw County, Alabama, several homes received major to minor damage, emergency officials said. Southern Choctaw High School also sustained damage to its baseball field and gym, and a school bus was flipped on its side, Tyler Davidson of the Choctaw County Emergency Management Agency said.

In Mississippi, at least two mobile homes were damaged and residents were rescued from inside, Corey Brown from the Noxubee County Office of Emergency Management said. It’s believed they suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Brown said.

High winds ahead of the storm system helped fuel a brush fire in Sevier County, Tennessee. At least one person was injured, and the flames have burned through at least 1,000 acres, county officials said. At least 35 structures have been affected.

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