NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Earlier storms that raked Tennessee are likely to be a mere a preview of severe weather this week.
After overnight storms, several school systems canceled classes for Tuesday because school buildings were without electricity and some bus routes had downed trees along them. By Tuesday afternoon, the power distributor in Clarksville still had about 6,000 customers without electricity and the Knoxville Utilities Board reported more than 11,000 customers without power. Nearly 4,000 were without power in the Jackson area.
Rain fell across much of the state Tuesday morning, but there were no severe storms.
An ambulance driver couldn't stop in time to avoid a fallen tree in Gibson County in the western part of the state early Tuesday, but none of the three people on board received serious injuries.
The weather is expected to turn more dangerous, beginning Tuesday night.
"Flooding is going to be a huge threat," said Danny Gant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis.
A flood warning was posted before the storms began for the rivers in West Tennessee: the Hatchie, the Loosahatchie, the Obion (oh-BY'-on) and both the North Fork and the South Fork of the Forked (FOR'-ked) Deer.
Farther east, a flood watch was out for the Harpeth River at Kingston Springs and Bellevue, the Red River near Port Royal and the Cumberland River at Clarksville.
While the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River both were carrying volumes of water at or approaching flood stage, Gant explained it there is more time to issue flood warnings for large rivers controlled by dams.
Smaller, uncontrolled rivers rise faster, Gant said, and tend to threaten more people because of their number and length.
The storms that are expected to bring copious rainfall will develop along a cold front west of Tennessee and move through the state from west to east.
"The front will produce heavy downpours, high winds and possible tornadoes," said Brittney Whitehead, a meteorologist intern at the NWS office in Nashville.
"A line of storms with come through, followed by more storms," Whitehead said.
The weather service predicted 5-7 inches of rain in West Tennessee and 2-7 inches in Middle Tennessee, with the higher amounts coming in the northwest corner of the region around Clarksville. Rainfall is expected to be considerably less on the Cumberland Plateau and over the Tennessee River Valley in East Tennessee.
Recent rainfall has saturated the soil and forecasters say any rain that falls will produce runoff into streams.
In Memphis, The Commercial Appeal quoted officials with the annual Memphis in May barbecue festival May 12-14 as saying they were concerned about flooding from the nearby Mississippi River.