Severe weather outbreak possible in Plains and Midwest today and tomorrow


GFS model shows big dip in the jet stream Thursday leading to a battle of the air masses that will ignite violent storms. (WeatherBell.com)

A strong cold front slicing through the Plains and Midwest promises to trigger widespread thunderstorms today and tomorrow, a number of which may be severe.  Damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes are possible in the most violent storms.

Writes the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC), regarding today’s severe weather threat:

[WE ARE] FORECASTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF TORNADOES /SOME POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT AND LONG TRACKED/…LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS OVER PARTS OF THE SOUTHERN/CENTRAL PLAINS LATER TODAY AND TONIGHT.

SPC has designated a large part of the Southern and Central Plains under a slight to moderate risk of severe thunderstorms. And the slight risk region extends somewhat east into the Midwest and parts of the Tennessee Valley.

Severe storm risk levels for today and tonight (NWS)
Severe storm risk levels for today and tonight (NWS)

Cities in the slight risk region include Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, and Kansas City.  The moderate risk region includes Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Wichita Falls.

The region from central Oklahoma into southeast Kansas appears to have today’s greatest risk of dangerous weather, including the chance of life-threatening tornadoes. SPC writes:

THE ENVIRONMENT WILL BE VERY SUPPORTIVE OF INTENSE SUPERCELLS CAPABLE OF VERY LARGE HAIL AND TORNADOES /SOME POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT AND LONG-TRACKED/. AN ENHANCED TORNADO THREAT IS EXPECTED TO PERSIST INTO TONIGHT ALONG THE I-44 CORRIDOR OF OK

Within this region there is a 10 percent or greater probability of EF2 – EF5 tornadoes within 25 miles of a point.

On Thursday, the heart of the severe weather threat shifts east and expands, with a large area in SPC’s moderate risk zone, extending from southeast Arkansas to southwest Michigan, including Memphis, South Bend and Chicago.

Severe storm risk levels for Thursday and Thursday night (NWS)
Severe storm risk levels for Thursday and Thursday night (NWS)

SPC writes:

SWATHS OF WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WINDS APPEAR PROBABLE ALONG WITH A ROBUST TORNADO RISK /SOME OF WHICH COULD BE SIGNIFICANT/.

Chicago not only faces the threat of severe storms that next two days, but also flash flooding (as of press time, it is under a severe thunderstorm watch, flood watch and flash flood warning). The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center forecasts 3-4 inches of rain from Missouri through northern Illinois and into central Michigan.

Rainfall forecast through Thursday night (National Weather Service)
Rainfall forecast through Thursday night (National Weather Service)

By Friday, the culprit weather system reaches the East Coast, but will have weakened. A line of gusty thunderstorms are possible Friday afternoon and night (along the I-95 corridor), but widespread severe weather is not expected at this time.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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