Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Major Tornado Outbreak Likely This Afternoon and Evening

As we first reported in a post yesterday, a major outbreak of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is likely this afternoon & evening across portions of the central & southern Plains.

The highest risk of severe storms, including the potential for several long track, strong & damaging tornadoes, is located within the pink and red shaded regions on the image above.  This includes the cities of Wichita, Hutchinson, Pratt, Kansas City, Emporia, Columbia, Springfield, Joplin, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Ponca City, Enid, Muskogee, Stillwater, Fayetteville, Ft. Smith, Rogers, and the Dallas /  Ft. Worth area. 

Significant tornado activity is possible anywhere within the pink, red and black hatched region on the image below:

A very strong upper-level storm system is rotating out over the central & southern Rockies this morning.  This system will lift out to the Northeast over the Western part of the highest risk area by mid-afternoon, resulting in explosive thunderstorm development along a dryline from central Kansas into western and central Oklahoma.  

Once developed, thunderstorms will initially move Northeast or East/Northeast, then turn more Eastward as they mature and produce tornadoes.  At least a few of the tornadoes are likely to be long track, strong and potentially very damaging.  In addition, very large hail (potentially baseball size or larger) and damaging thunderstorm winds will be possible with this activity.

The activity is expected to move and/or develop Eastward into adjacent portions of southeast Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, southwest Missouri and western Arkansas during the evening hours.  The significant tornado and very large hail threat will continue as the activity progresses into this region.  This unfortunately means that there is the potential for a very dangerous tornado threat after dark over the aforementioned areas of Missouri and Arkansas, as the storms continue Eastward.

This is a potentially very dangerous, life threatening situation for the highest risk areas described above.  Please remain on a high state of alert and be prepared to seek shelter immediately if threatening weather approaches your area this afternoon or evening.

Further Southward along the dryline in Texas, isolated to scattered severe storms are also expected to develop by late afternoon and into this evening.  Tornadoes, very large hail and damaging winds will also be possible in this area.  This activity is expected to move Northeast or East/Northeast initially, and will likely turn more Eastward as storms mature.  A strong tornado is also possible in this region, particularly over northwest Texas this evening.

Elsewhere, severe thunderstorms, including at least isolated tornadoes, are possible anywhere within the yellow shaded region on the 1st image.


The Planet Pink said...

Do you have a guess at the time of storm initiation? I think the last I heard was around 3pm along the western edge of the risk area.

Rob In Texas said...

Planet Pink,

That's the question of the hour. The reason I wasn't more specific is that it isn't completely clear yet. Unlike the past few days, there is a very strong cap in place in western and central Oklahoma. If that weren't there, we'd be seeing storms initiating by 1pm as upper-level energy starts moving in from the Southwest.

I think 3pm is the "safe" bet at this time. It could be earlier (more like 2pm) if the incoming upper-level energy is strong enough to break the cap in one or two places.

We should be able to tell by midday on satellite imagery how the energy is coming in, that may allow for a more precise estimate around lunchtime.

Shamrock said...

Ok, Rob....tell me how concerned I should be today. We are under a Severe TStorm Watch until 2pm here. We were even under a Severe TStorm Warning for a few minutes at Noon Radar looks clear so far....Is Johnson County, TN gonna be ok?

Rob In Texas said...

Most of the activity is trending off to your North. Some storms could build Southward during the afternoon with heating, but they will remain scattered it looks like.

I don't see a screaming tornado threat with any of this activity, it looks more like gusty winds and some hail.