Severe thunderstorms erupted once more on Wednesday afternoon, continuing what has been an active weather pattern for the Central states in the final week of May.
Following Monday's tornadoes, which included a huge and hazardous one that caused damage and an injury in Kansas, the area was spared from severe thunderstorms on Tuesday. Although that area was limited from severe weather, huge hail fell in sections of Texas.
As severe weather develops over Kansas and the neighboring states, meteorologists warn ferocious winds will be one of the main worries with the midweek storms.
"From eastern Wyoming through South Dakota, Nebraska, and western Kansas, these severe thunderstorms will have a high potential for destructive winds, huge hail, heavy rain, and tornadoes," said Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde.
Related Article: Tornado Brings Chaos and Destruction in a Small Town in Kansas
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an "Especially Dangerous Situation" tornado watch for sections of eastern Colorado, southern Nebraska, and western Kansas until 2 a.m. CDT Thursday, noting the possibility of "a few powerful tornadoes" in this area.
Parts of Nebraska and Kansas are now under a moderate risk of severe weather through Wednesday night. According to the NWS's Storm Prediction Center, this region, including places like Hastings and North Platte, Nebraska, has roughly 285,000 people (SPC). The fourth-highest category of the SPC's severe thunderstorm warning system is moderate.
When the modest danger regions in the southern Plains and the northeastern United States are included, the hazard region has 57.4 million people.
Thunderstorms began to form late in the afternoon following a peaceful first half of Wednesday. Social media was immediately flooded with reports of hail and potential tornado sightings.
Two early tornado reports were recorded in Ellis County, Kansas, about 3 p.m. CDT, and hail up to 2 inches in diameter was also observed in the county, according to NOAA's SPC. There were at least 16 preliminary tornado reports in Kansas and Nebraska around 6 p.m. CDT.
Individual thunderstorms are predicted to combine into a cluster by Wednesday evening. This will boost the risk of destructive wind gusts and a few tornadoes dramatically.
"As the storms intensify on Wednesday night, the probability of severe weather will increase significantly," Rinde said. "This is especially true in southern Nebraska and northern Kansas, where the elements for thunderstorms to spin are most evident."
The storms can coalesce into a fast-moving line that can produce a wide swath of severe winds from Wednesday night through early Thursday. Extreme examples of this have before resulted in a phenomenon known as a derecho. An intense derecho swept through a 700-mile stretch from eastern Nebraska to Indiana on August 10-11, 2020. The cost of the damage approached $10 billion.
Wind gusts in portions of the Central states could exceed 100 mph, according to AccuWeather Local StormMaxTM. A Category 2 storm in the Atlantic or East Pacific Oceans, for example, has wind speeds of 96-110 mph. Winds of 86-110 mph can be generated by an EF1 tornado.
Severe weather will also be a hazard in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles further south. Thunderstorms aren't predicted to be as widespread, but wind, huge hail, and maybe a tornado or two are probable.
Wyoming, Nebraska, and western Kansas will enjoy a lot quieter day Thursday due to a cold front. Severe thunderstorms, on the other hand, are expected to move east.
"Severe thunderstorm hazards will persist into eastern Kansas and Missouri on Thursday as storms move through the central Plains," Rinde warned.
He also mentioned that the areas with the highest potential of tornadoes on Thursday are predicted to be southeastern Kansas and southern Missouri.
According to Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "depending on the amount of sunshine and accompanying midday heating across areas of the southern Plains on Thursday, there is a potential of a few severe tornadoes that might be on the ground for more than a few minutes."
As the cold front moves southward, the chance of severe weather will decrease towards the end of the week. Severe thunderstorms are most expected to hit Texas and Louisiana on Friday. The most likely risks would be strong winds, torrential rains, and an isolated tornado.
By Sunday or Monday, thunderstorms may return to parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It's uncertain how severe the storms will be at this time, but meteorologists will keep an eye on the situation as the holiday weekend approaches.
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