Heavy rain, tornado risk returns to South Mississippi

Spring showers are extending a recent aggressive streak when the threat of tornadoes and heavy rains returns this week to much of the Southeast.

Forecasters say storms could produce tornadoes in several states across the South and flooding in Mississippi, where up to 5 inches of rain could fall.

The national Storm Prediction Center says nearly 60 million people in several states -- including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- will be at risk for severe storms Wednesday into Thursday.

Risks include tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds and frequent lightning.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the greatest threat of severe weather is expected in the central part of the state, from near Hattiesburg northward. But the storm center warns there is still a lot of uncertainty over where severe weather could strike, resulting in a wide swath of the Southeast being under a slight risk.

On the Coast, isolated to scattered storms could start as early as tonight as a large system of thunderstorms over the Gulf of Mexico drifts north, the National Weather Service in Slidell predicts.

The bulk of the rain is expected Wednesday night through Thursday, with rain chances still high at 50 percent all day Friday.

The good news is Saturday and Sunday should be sunny and cooler, with highs around 70 and lows in the low 50s.

Heavy rains could affect river levels, which are still high from recent downpours. The Pearl River remains above the 14-foot flood stage at 17.1 feet at 10 a.m. Thursday. The Pascagoula River has fallen below flood stage.

Small craft advisories are possible tonight through Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.