Forecasters warned about tornadoes and other violent weather Thursday as a front that unleashed twisters and hail in the lower Midwest moved into the storm-weary Southeast.
The National Weather Service issued a series of tornado warnings about a system pushing eastward across Louisiana, where strong storms covered much of the state.
A tornado watch reached from coastal Louisiana into central Mississippi, and more weather alerts were likely. Flood warnings reached as far north as central Indiana.
Dozens of schools dismissed students early as a precaution in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where the threat was expected to continue after nightfall. Government offices were also closed statewide in Louisiana.
Winds could be nearly as strong as during a hurricane, forecasters said.
The same system produced tornadoes and hail earlier in North Texas, the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas.
Seven tornadoes were reported across the Plains from the northeastern Texas Panhandle to southeastern Kansas. Strong winds hit elsewhere Wednesday evening, toppling utility poles and trees and downing power lines in parts of North Texas.
No significant structural damage was reported, but heavy rainfall caused flash flooding that prompted the shutdown of Interstate 30 in central Arkansas and the closure of several schools around Little Rock.
The National Weather Service received numerous reports of hail pelting the storm-struck areas. Egg-size hail was reported about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Fort Worth.
The threat came days after more than 40 tornadoes from East Texas to Georgia left at least nine dead. That outbreak damaged more than 250 homes, businesses and public buildings across Mississippi.