The storm could bring severe weather to millions as it moves east.
CNN  — 

A potent winter storm that turned deadly in California is now threatening powerful tornadoes in the South and heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain in the Midwest.

About seven million people are under flood alerts across the Mississippi River Valley as the storm that brought heavy rain California continues to head east. Flood watches spread from the Texas-Louisiana border north along the Mississippi River Valley into southern Indiana and Illinois.

Widespread radar estimated totals across the area range from 1 to 3 inches, but isolated areas where storms have trained over the same location have seen estimated totals as high as 5 inches.

A moderate risk of excessive rainfall – level 3 of 4 – remains across the lower Mississippi and lower Ohio valleys, where rainfall rates could reach 1 to 2 inches per hour. This area could still see 2 to 4 inches, with locally higher amounts, by Tuesday morning. Widespread rainfall across the remainder of the area Tuesday morning is likely to be between 1 to 2 inches.

A tornado watch has been issued for eastern Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and northwest Arkansas until 10 p.m. CT, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. A third watch is in effect for southeastern Arkansas, northeastern Louisiana and western Mississippi until 3 a.m. CT.

And tornadoes are not the only risk in the region. Large hail – potentially up to 2 inches in diameter – and thrashing winds of up to 70 mph are possible “well into the night across much of the area,” the Storm Prediction Center warned.

Anyone in areas at risk of tornadoes should seek safe shelter immediately, said Brad Bryant, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service office in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“If you wait around for a warning to be issued, it is too late,” Bryant said Monday. “You need to have a safe shelter plan in place in advance of these storms.”

He encouraged anyone needing help – especially those living in mobile homes – to contact local emergency mangers or law enforcement for sheltering options.

“Since mid-November we’ve had three rounds of severe weather and we have had fatalities, most of which have occurred in mobile homes,” Bryant said.

Damage has already been reported in Jessieville, Arkansas, after a possible tornado, Garland County Office of Emergency Management Director Bo Robertson told CNN. Robertson said the county has not had any reports of injuries or fatalities, but damage is still being assessed.

Robertson said as “major damage” was reported to the Jessieville school district. Seven of the district’s buildings were damaged, according to the Garland County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Courtney Kizer. In a news release, the sheriff’s office said that at approximately 2:44 p.m. CT the area near the school experienced high winds associated with what is thought to be a tornado.

“Damage was sustained to areas of the school due to trees, and power lines. The school was currently in session at the time, however all students have been accounted for and reports of no injury,” the release said.

Storm damage seen in Jessieville, Arkansas, on January 2, 2022.

In response to the severe weather and flash flooding expected in parts of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott activated state emergency response resources Monday.

“The State of Texas is proactively working to ensure Texans and their property remain safe from severe weather threats that could impact eastern regions of our state today and early tomorrow,” Abbott said in a statement. “As we monitor conditions and potential threats, I urge Texans in affected areas to heed the guidance of local officials and remain weather-aware as severe weather systems develop. We will swiftly provide all necessary resources to address severe weather and protect our communities.”

In Jackson Parish, Louisiana, officials are asking residents to stay off the roads due to severe weather in the area, according to a Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office Facebook post.

“Due to extreme weather we are asking that anyone who does not have an emergency to stay off the roads. We have several trees down and water over the roads. We are trying to work to get to houses that are damaged and clear roads,” the post said.

From Missouri down to the Gulf Coast, more than 30 million people are at risk for severe weather Monday, CNN Meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

And more tornadoes and damaging winds are possible Tuesday in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as the storm moves east.

Farther north, more than 15 million people from Utah to Wisconsin are under winter weather alerts Monday.

The same storm system caused record-setting rainfall and deadly flooding in drought-stricken California over the weekend. And another wave of intense rainfall this week could exacerbate dangerous flooding.

‘Travel will become hazardous, if not impossible’

In the Plains and Midwest, rapid snowfall of 1 to 2 inches per hour is forecast from the Nebraska panhandle through southwest Minnesota – leaving a total of more than 12 inches of snow by late Tuesday. The onslaught of snow could be accompanied by thunder.

“These intense rates combined with gusty winds will produce areas of blowing and drifting snow, resulting in snow-covered roads, reduced visibility and difficult travel,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

Significant ice accumulation could lead to power outages and treacherous travel conditions.

More than 75 miles worth of Interstate 80 in Wyoming are closed due to the ongoing impacts of the storm, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. The department said westbound traffic is further blocked from the Rawlins section of I-80 to the I-25 junction in Cheyenne, which covers more than 120 miles.

“Snow [and] blowing snow to impact Wyoming roads into tonight,” an agency Facebook post read. “A high wind event will then create blowing [and] drifting snow, poor visibility and possible whiteout conditions Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon for sections of I-80, I-25, South Pass and various secondary roads!”

The westbound closures are expected to reopen in 12 to 14 hours, the department said. The remaining sections are “long term closures” with no estimated reopening time available.

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Freezing rain could cause more than a quarter-inch of ice to stack up from northeastern Nebraska to northwestern Iowa to southern Minnesota late Monday into Tuesday.

“Travel will become hazardous, if not impossible, later this evening (into) Tuesday in many areas,” the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Monday.

School districts in South Dakota and Wyoming began announcing Monday night they’d be closing schools Tuesday.

California could get more flooding this week

Three vehicles are submerged on Dillard Road west of Highway 99 in south Sacramento County in Wilton, California, Sunday, after heavy rains on New Year's Eve.

Northern California communities submerged in mammoth flooding over the weekend could get deluged by even more rainfall later this week.

It’s not clear how much this storm will make a dent in drought conditions that have gripped California, which started 2022 with the driest beginning of the year on record and ended with flooded roads and swelling rivers.

“Early precipitation forecasts for the midweek storm looks to be around 2 to 3 inches possible in the Central Valley with 3 to 6 inches or more of liquid precipitation in the foothills and mountains,” the weather service office in Sacramento said. 

An atmospheric river – a long, narrow region in the atmosphere which can carry moisture thousands of miles – fueled a parade of storms over the weekend, which led to record-setting rainfall and water rescues.

At least two people died, including one found inside a submerged vehicle in Sacramento County and a 72-year-old man struck by a falling tree at a Santa Cruz park, officials said.

Another atmospheric river could bring heavy rain and more flooding Wednesday to Northern and central California, including the Bay Area.

This next storm “looks like it will cause dangerous situations,” the National Weather Service in San Francisco said.

CNN’s Amir Vera, Nouran Salahieh and Mike Saenz contributed to this report.