Since Monday, the National Weather Service has received more than 60 tornado reports in the central United States, and nearly 400 river gauges in the region have exceeded flood stage. The twisters and torrents have resulted in four deaths, damaged homes and inundated communities. And the severe weather is far from over.
Two more rounds of heavy thunderstorms capable of spawning tornadoes and excessive rains are predicted Wednesday and Thursday.
The Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has outlined a heightened risk of severe thunderstorms in many of the areas already hit hard. They include Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Joplin, Mo., and the Kansas City area on Wednesday (see map below) and the Texas Panhandle to northeastern Kansas on Thursday.
“Tornadoes, large/damaging hail and severe gusts all are possible,” the SPC warned.
Additionally, an elevated risk of excessive rainfall covers much of the southern and central Plains and extends into Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.
Northeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas, and southwestern Missouri, already waterlogged, are particularly at risk if they receive more rain.
“Given antecedent conditions, significant and potentially life threatening flash flooding will be a possibility,” the SPC wrote Wednesday.
In central and northeastern Oklahoma, 10 to 18 inches of rain have fallen in the past 30 days, the most on record in some areas.
Flood warnings are in effect for much of northeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri.
In a spring marked by historic flooding, river levels remain abnormally high over a vast area from southern Louisiana to North Dakota and Minnesota. As of Wednesday morning, 209 river gauges indicated minor flooding, 136 moderate flooding and 32 major flooding.
The Mississippi River is forecast to crest in St. Louis around Memorial Day at one of its top-five levels on record. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the river has been at flood stage for a record 136 days and counting.
Rivers levels are unlikely to recede markedly any time soon, considering the forecast for 3 to 6 more inches of rain over the next week in the Missouri and Mississippi River basins.
Tornado and flooding reports from Tuesday
Wednesday potentially marks the third straight day with the risk of flooding and tornadic storms in the Central U.S.
After 28 reports of tornadoes Monday, the SPC logged 38 additional reports on Tuesday spread over Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
A woman in Adair County, Iowa, died Tuesday when a twister, rated EF2 on the 0 to 5 scale for tornado intensity, struck her home. It was the first tornado death recorded in the state since April 27, 2014.
In Missouri, St. Louis was warned for a tornado that touched down to the west in Augusta but lifted before reaching the Gateway City. The twister briefly shut down air traffic at Lambert International Airport.
The Associated Press reported that another tornado tore across a drive-through wildlife park in southern Missouri but that no injuries to people or animals were reported.
Heavy rain and flooding were blamed for three deaths Tuesday. The AP reported downpours were a “contributing factor” in the death of a couple involved in a vehicle accident near Springfield, Mo. A woman died in Payne County, Okla., when she was swept away by floodwater after driving her vehicle around a barricade.
“Local law enforcement has reported flooding across much of central and north central Oklahoma,” the National Weather Service wrote in a flood statement Tuesday.
Multiple high-water rescues were conducted in Missouri and Oklahoma, according to reports.
For additional information on the tornadoes and flooding that occurred Monday and Tuesday, when this volley of severe weather began, see: After tornadoes and flooding hit Oklahoma, wild spring storm bolts for the Midwest