Severe weather erupted Tuesday across the central United States. Numerous tornadoes touched down in at least five states, with the focus of severe weather fury targeting Oklahoma.

Heavy rain and flooding also were common. Large zones of three or more inches of rain fell across parts of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois, in particular.


A large wedge tornado April 30 near Blue, Okla. (Alex Spahn, @spahn711/Twitter)

River flooding, which has plagued portions of the central United States since March, was aggravated by Tuesday’s rain. As the Mississippi River surged to near-record levels in parts of Iowa, a flood barrier failed in Davenport and water poured into the city.

More dangerous storms and flooding are predicted for the middle of the nation Wednesday.

Another severe weather volley

More than two dozen reports of tornadoes have been logged for Tuesday. At least a few more reports are likely to trickle in as the National Weather Service investigates the event.

It was the biggest tornado outbreak of the year in parts of the Plains, where places like Oklahoma were hit by numerous tornadoes after a slow start to 2019. The outbreak also caps an active month of weather that featured two large-scale severe weather outbreaks in prior weeks.

Storms got off to an unusually early start Tuesday, with tornadoes in central and eastern parts of Oklahoma around lunchtime. This is when the incredible tornado captured by drone touched down.

From that point through the afternoon and into evening, clusters of tornadic supercells dotted the landscape from Missouri to Texas. After dark, more tornadoes, including a large wedge that did major damage, scoured the landscape in southern Oklahoma as others touched down elsewhere.

On Wednesday, the southern Plains into the ArkLaTex are under the gun for dangerous weather. Another spoke of cold and buoyant air in the fast jet-stream aloft will mix with copious low-level moisture to set off storms across a region, focused on north Texas.

Tornadoes and large hail are possible. Eventually, storms might consolidate into a complex with widespread damaging winds. And with these storms will come more rain.

Flooding now, and beyond

As has been the story for weeks, flooding is ongoing at many locations along the Mississippi River, as well as tributaries to it, and other major waterways across the Midwest and the South.

In Davenport, Iowa, a flash-flood emergency was issued late Tuesday as a flood barrier failed and water poured into the city. Although only a small part of downtown flooded, streets turned to lakes in some sections. The failure was spurred by the Mississippi River rising to near-historic levels. A gauge at Rock Island near the city is poised to threaten levels seen during the 1993 flood on Wednesday before waters subside.

Tuesday’s situation in Davenport is not expected to worsen, as the Mississippi River is heavily contained in most areas.

To the south, an area from Illinois to Oklahoma saw round after round of flash-flood inducing rain Tuesday. Wednesday morning, most of Missouri was under flood warnings as numerous creeks and streams overflowed their banks.

Any additional rainfall is likely to exacerbate it, and more is on the way over the next few days. On Wednesday, a moderate risk for excessive rainfall is focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with a lower but still notable heavy rainfall threat extending into a larger region and then shifting eastward for Thursday.

This latest round of high water should peak in the next few days, with levels falling off thereafter. In many cases, levels dropping still means major flooding ongoing into next week.

The renewed round of flooding comes because the storm train has been running since winter. Signs continue to point to an active period ahead for much of the Lower 48.

With an outlook from the Climate Prediction Center for May that calls for good chances of above-average precipitation in the same regions already experiencing flooding, it’s likely that widespread high water is a story that will persist in the weeks ahead.

And, of course, patterns that cause flooding tend to also bring thunderstorms. May is peak for tornadoes in the United States, as more of the country comes under threat from violent storms.