Source: Bill Deger, Meteorologist
A life-threatening, large outbreak of tornadoes is forecast to unfold across the central and southern Plains this weekend.
According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, “The risk is about as high as it gets.”
Oklahoma City and Wichita lie in the heart of the tornado threat area that extends from near Wichita Falls, Texas, to near Omaha, Neb., late Saturday afternoon through Saturday night.
Despite a seemingly tranquil start to the day Saturday, the environment will be such that numerous damaging thunderstorms will form from 4:00 p.m. CDT on through much of the night. A number of these storms will produce tornadoes.
Given current trends, it appears as if the severe weather late Saturday will, at the very least, reach the level of an outbreak with the potential for dozens of tornadoes. Such events are typically seen only a handful of times each year.
Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario is also on the table. In this situation, there is the possibility of a large-scale outbreak of twisters. Some of the tornadoes could be very strong and remain on the ground for miles.
Dangerous Setup for Storms
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Meghan Evans first warned of the threat for tornadoes earlier in the week, saying, “The ingredients for a tornado outbreak may come together across portions of the Plains later Saturday.”
Unfortunately, it now looks as if all those ingredients will come together.
A powerful storm moving into the West today will reach the southern Plains by Saturday.
The storm system, combined with a strong rush of wind aloft via the jet stream and a warm, moisture-rich air mass in place originating from the Gulf of Mexico, will allow thunderstorms to fire late in the day.
The difference in wind direction well up in the atmosphere (from the west) and at the surface (from the south) will enhance the threat for tornadoes.
The thunderstorms that will spawn the tornadoes will also drop large, damaging hail, and could produce powerful wind gusts in excess of 60 mph without the help of a funnel.
While a few isolated storms will be possible earlier Saturday, the more powerful storms will wait until late afternoon to fire, probably along and just to the west of the I-35/I-135 corridor from Oklahoma City to Salina, Kan.
After impacting the central and southern Plains late Saturday, the threat for severe storms and a few tornadoes will shift east toward the Mississippi Valley early next week.
As Evans points out, the greatest risk for tornadoes will be across central and eastern Kansas through central Oklahoma Saturday evening.
A cluster of tornado-producing thunderstorms is possible Sunday over portions of the Upper Midwest.
A dangerous situation will become even more precarious after dark with the threat for severe storms and tornadoes continuing and even expanding farther east into western Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, northern Texas and northwestern Arkansas.
Joplin and Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla., and even the western suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth could be in for a stormy night.
Portions of several major highways will be at risk, including Interstates 20, 29, 30, 35, 40, 44, 70, 80, 135, 335 and 540.
If you are traveling and a potential tornado is approaching, be prepared to abandon your vehicle and seek safe shelter. Better yet, stay off the roads if you hear that thunderstorms are approaching.
Because of the threat, it is imperative that you keep up to date with the weather situation over the next several days, especially on Saturday. Have a plan of action before heading out or to bed.
Immediately head to the basement or a storm shelter if a warning is issued. Mobile homes and trailers should always be evacuated, as well.
Knowing ahead of time what to do in the event of a tornado or strong thunderstorm could save your life.
Part of the area at risk this weekend will be at risk for for severe weather this afternoon and evening, including hail and isolated tornadoes.