May 25, 2011 severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center.

Given the multiple tornado tragedies this season, in some ways it may seem the central U.S. dodged a bullet yesterday, as even with multiple large and violent tornadoes, the human impact was lesser than recent. Despite any good news on that level, at least 13 people died, and damaging storms impacted major urban areas like Oklahoma City and Dallas.

Keep reading for more on yesterday’s tornado outbreak in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, plus today’s storm outlook.

Severe weather reports from Tuesday, May 24, 2011. (Storm Prediction Center/NOAA)

Activity fired up quickly yesterday afternoon (see a satellite loop from initiation to sunset) as a storm system moved out of the Rockies and into the Great Plains. By mid-to-late afternoon, several large supercells producing tornadoes were ongoing in parts of Kansas and west of Oklahoma City. Fortunately for the highly-populated areas, this time the worst of the storms largely missed.

However, there were harrowing times Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Arkansas. Even the Storm Prediction Center itself in Norman, OK was briefly evacuated as storms approached the region, as were other NOAA offices centered in the area. Large, often rain wrapped, tornadoes on the ground mercifully lifted or weakened on approach. And as the evening progressed, the severe weather zipped down the cold front/dry line into north Texas, where numerous tornado warnings were issued in the Dallas metro area. Large hail, to the size of softballs, was also reported in Texas.

Even battered Joplin found itself under the gun again as first a line of severe storms passed through, then tornado warnings were issued to the north and south of the area impacted this weekend. Thankfully, no additional major damage was reported there, but it was undoubtedly not what local residents needed at this time.

Today, the focus shifts east, with a high risk area centered on where Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas come together. The tornado threat is again very significant, if perhaps a touch lower stats wise (30% within 25 miles of a point v. 45% within the same) than yesterday. On the flip side of any slightly positive news compared to yesterday’s potential, this area has more population concentration, and lower visibility (to know something is coming) overall. Plus, tornadoes don’t necessarily care about probabilities.

With a continued volatile setup, fueled by high heat and humidity colliding with an intense storm system and strong jet stream overhead, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that any “luck” from yesterday carries over to today.

Videos from yesterday...

El Reno, OK wedge tornado
Canton, OK violent tornado | Another view | Yet another
Tornado crossing I-40 northwest of OKC
Shawnee, OK tornado
Sirens blaring in Dallas, TX

Keeping track today...

Storm Prediction Center
Chaser TV video streams
TornadoHunt Twitter feed
Jim Cantore Twitter feed
Reed Timmer Twitter feed