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Tornado watch remains until 11 p.m., severe storms expected

Staff Report • Mar 2, 2012 at 3:54 PM

A tornado watch remains in effect for East Tennessee, including all counties in the Tri-Cities region, until 11 p.m. tonight, according to the National Weather Service storm prediction center in Norman, Okla.

A squall line of strong to severe storms is expected along or ahead of a cold front. The line is expected to race across the Tennessee River Valley late this evening, bringing widespread damaging winds and locally heavy rainfall across Southern Appalachia. Large hail and tornadoes are possible.

Washington County schools dismissed at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, and jurors in a child abuse trial this week in Washington County went home early in anticipation of the severe weather approaching the region.

Any student enrolled in the county's School Age Child Care Afternoon Program must be picked up by 2:30 p.m.

Johnson City schools are not closing early.

The trial of Robert Simons III, 55, and Mary Ella Tittle, 39 is being held this week. The couple was charged with eight counts of aggravated child neglect because investigators and prosecutors say they failed to send their children to school.

Jurors were told to go home for the weekend because the storms were approaching.

Forecasters warn of a possibly severe outbreak of storms across the central part of Tennessee.

Near-record high temperatures Friday afternoon and moisture-rich Gulf air will collide with an approaching cold front and thunderstorms will intensify.

Some moderate storms had developed before dawn Friday in Middle Tennessee.

The most dangerous tornado risk area, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, is expected to be from Middle and East Tennessee, northward across Kentucky to the Ohio River. NWS said a few long track tornadoes are possible.

Temperature and winds will increase across Friday and the cold front will move through, triggering storms from about noon near the western Tennessee River Valley through mid-evening farther east.

Strong wind and heavy rain was likely up the valley between Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities.

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