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Southeastern U.S. faces slight risk of hail, damaging winds and tornadoes

Source: Michael Pearson and Dave Alsup, CNN

(CNN) — Severe thunderstorms may roar across the southeastern United States again on Wednesday, bringing with them a slight risk of hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.

About 37 million people are at risk in places like Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Virginia Beach; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Atlanta, the National Weather Service said.

Heavy rain will be the norm.

Carnesha Bennett, right, cries on a friend’s shoulder after touring what remains of her mother’s child-care center in Louisville, Mississippi, on Tuesday, April 29. A powerful storm system, including some tornadoes, has claimed more than two dozen lives in six states this week.

The remains of a large truck rest amid debris in Vilonia, Arkansas, on April 29.

Kevin Barnes searches the remains of his home in Tupelo, Mississippi, on April 29.

A searcher walks past the remains of an SUV in Louisville on April 29, after a tornado hit the community in eastern Mississippi.

Constance Lambert embraces her dog after finding it when she returned to her destroyed home in Tupelo on Monday, April 28.

Residents walk along a Tupelo street on April 28.

Workers assist a resident in Louisville on April 28. A nursing home and the Winston Medical Center, Louisville’s major hospital, were among the buildings hit.

Jimmy Sullinger watches lightning as a storm approaches the gas station where he works in Berry, Alabama, on April 28. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency for all counties.

Justin Shaw, left, helps Nick Conway erect a flagpole April 28 at his destroyed home in Vilonia.

John Smith reacts after seeing what’s left of his auto repair shop in Mayflower, Arkansas, on April 28.

Dust and debris fly as workers flip a fallen wall while searching destroyed homes in Vilonia on April 28. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said the storm was one of the worst to hit the state in recent memory.

Residents of Baxter Springs, Kansas, view damage on April 28. A tornado estimated to be three blocks wide rumbled through Baxter Springs, said Cherokee County emergency manager Jason Allison.

People walk between destroyed houses on April 28 in Mayflower.

The remains of a home are seen in Baxter Springs on April 28. Sixty to 70 homes and at least 20 businesses there were reported destroyed, Allison said.

A tornado touches down in Baxter Springs on Sunday, April 27.

A funnel cloud is seen near Baxter Springs on April 27.

Photos: Tornadoes slam several states Photos: Tornadoes slam several states

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South hammered by more than 50 tornadoes

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Meteorologist takes cover during live TV
In Escambia County, Florida, officials issued a state of emergency after 9 inches of rain.

Rescue crews scrambled to reach stranded motorists, and a search was under way for a missing driver who’d called for emergency help, said Bill Pearson of the county emergency management.

He asked drivers to stay off the roads for the next 24 hours.

The Florida Highway Patrol reported one weather-related drowning.

County schools will be closed Wednesday, he said, as well as Interstate 10 and Highway 29.

By Tuesday night, much of the fear of severe storms that could produce large tornado tracks in the eastern half of the United States, from Mississippi to New York, dissipated after the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center downgraded the threat.

Some storm risks remain, including the possibility of large hail, damaging winds and flash flooding in portions of the South and East Coast, forecasters said.

Tens of thousands were without power in the South, where suspected tornadoes tore through homes and businesses late Monday. At least 17 people were killed in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee on Monday. Those deaths are in addition to 18 others reported in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa from storms Sunday.

Search and rescue efforts were still under way in Louisville, Mississippi, about 90 miles northeast of Jackson, where a tornado the day before flattened a day care center, said Robert Latham of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the twisters inflicted “severe damage” in Louisville. Winston Medical Center, Louisville’s major hospital, was also among the buildings hit.

Meanwhile, the storm that walloped Mississippi and Alabama overnight was making its way through parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, according to the Storm Prediction Center.