severe (66)

All of the ingredients are coming together to produce a potentially catastrophic tornado outbreak across the Central Plains on Saturday. Before this system arrives Saturday with large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes, time should be taken today to make any necessary preparations.

Tomorrow`s severe storm outbreak is part of the same storm system that will produce severe weather today. The low pressure responsible for today`s storms will slide northward into the Dakotas by this evening, opening up the spigot for a fresh low-pressure center to develop. This low will rapidly intensify across the Texas Panhandle early Saturday morning, as it draws tropical-type humidity northward into Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. At the same time, the low will be pulling colder air southward across the Rockies, where it will be poised to come into contact with the warmer air mass. This will lead to the development of a strong cold front that will drag behind the low as it advances into the Central Plains.

Temperatures will climb rapidly ahead of the front, with the mercury likely to reach well into the 80s by mid-afternoon. This will only help to fuel storms that will be triggered as the front arrives in the late afternoon.

The strongest storms will be found along the Interstate 35 corridor of Kansas and Oklahoma. Here, hail of baseball to softball size will be likely, along with winds that could gust as high as 80 to 100 mph. The biggest concern, however, is large and catastrophic tornadoes that will form as shear - - turning of air with height - - increases ahead of the front. The government`s Storm Prediction Center is confident enough that such an outbreak will occur that they have issued a High Risk threat for Saturday around Salina, Wichita, and Manhattan, Kan., and Enid and Oklahoma City, Okla.

Just outside of this zone of activity is a still-dangerous area of Moderate Risk of severe activity. Here, damaging tornadoes are still possible, although they may not be quite as widespread as in the high-risk area. Large hail of baseball size will be possible, as well as strong wind gusts of hurricane force. This includes much of the Central Plains stretching from southeastern Nebraska to Texas` Red River Valley, including Wichita Falls, Texas, Topeka, Kan., the western suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., St. Joseph, Mo., and Lincoln and Omaha, Neb.

The threat of storms extends even beyond that, with severe thunderstorms possible as far north as Sioux Falls, S.D., and Rockford, Ill., as far east as Springfield, Mo., and as far south and west as Abilene and Odessa, Texas. Wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph, quarter to golf ball sized hail and perhaps even a tornado or two are possible within this area.

Residents of the Plains are urged to make any preparations today ahead of the storm. If you can, stock your storm cellar with food, water, and blankets, and tie down any loose outdoor objects to prevent them from becoming airborne during Saturday`s storms. Make any necessary precautions to protect life today, with the assumption that this may not be feasible on Saturday.

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UPDATED By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Andrew Rosenthal

UPDATED 12:30 AM CST, January 22, 2012

The weather will have a decidedly spring-like feel across the Lower Mississippi Valley, as an outbreak of severe thunderstorms is poised to develop later today. The outbreak will be reminiscent of those seen in 2011, with gusty winds, hail and tornadoes all possible.

Thunderstorms will develop across Arkansas and Louisiana, quickly becoming severe as they cross the Mississippi River into Tennessee and Mississippi. The strongest storms will be found later this evening across the Mid-South where the storms are able to tap into unseasonably humid air.

These storms will strike western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and northern Mississippi with a fury similar to the storms of 2011. Strong tornadoes, wind gusts of 70 to 80 mph and large hail are all possible today across this region, including Memphis, and Greenville, Miss. Due to the threat of these dangerous storms, the government`s Storm Prediction Center has considered this a Moderate Risk for some of the most dangerous storms.

Beyond this bulls-eye for storm activity, the thunderstorm threat will expand into the Ohio Valley and across the South. Locations from Louisiana to southern Indiana and southwestern Ohio could be at risk for a strong to severe thunderstorm capable of producing 60 mph winds, hail and even a weaker tornado. Cities such as Baton Rouge, La., Jackson, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., Nashville, Tenn., Paducah and Louisville, Ky., Evansville, Ind., and Cincinnati could see a strong thunderstorm this evening or overnight.

Today`s storms won`t come together until late in the day, delaying the storm threat from developing until after sunset. Remember: severe storms and tornadoes at night can be particularly dangerous, as they are harder to see and thus have a reduced warning time. Take the time during the day today to make sure your shelter is ready so that you can quickly act when storms come knocking on your door after dark.

An area of low pressure will surge eastward from the Rockies today, crossing from the Plains into the Mississippi Valley. The low will quickly access warm and humid air building along the Gulf Coast, while also dragging along a pool of cold, Canadian air behind the storm. By this evening, these two air masses will meet and the results will be explosive.

The dynamics for today`s storm threat are much more typical of March or April than mid-to-late January. The low is part of the same storm system that has been responsible for all of the snow in the western U.S., and its exit into the Rockies with all of its energy intact has allowed it to prepare to roar into the central U.S. Fed by multiple jet streams, the same winds that will roar into the Mississippi Valley will force the low pressure responsible for the storms to make a quick turn to the north, scooting across the Great Lakes and into Canada.

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Winter Storm Watches and Warnings from North Carolina to Maine, up to 10 inches expected in the Appalachian mountains. More on the atmospheric "bomb" below...

*The Hurricane Irene comparison? On August 26, 2011 Irene reached a central pressure of 942 millibars. Since Tuesday, computer models have shown that this storm will rapidly deepen in the overnight hours. The anticipated drop in central pressure is projected to be over 24 millibars in a 24 hour period. This is the unofficial criteria for an "atmospheric bomb" or "bombogenesis" which is a meteorological slang along the eastern seaboard. The October 2011 Northeast U.S. snowstorm is the most recent example of this phenomena.

‎7:45 AM EST 12/7/11
MID-ATLANTIC STORM UPDATE Overnight, computer models and forecasters alike came to a consensus that the influence of powerful upper level low is going to fire off a rapidly deepening coastal "bomb" at the surface. By tonight, an explosively developing storm along the Virginia Capes will begin to move northeastward. As a result, areas up to 200 miles west of the storm may be impacted by "dynamical cooling" which will be responsible for generating snow in this early season event, even into the major metro areas of Baltimore and Washington as well as much of the Central Appalachians by tonight.

Evidence of the National Weather Service's concern for this potential are the surprisingly widespread Winter Weather Advisories, Watches and now even Warnings from North Carolina to Maine. Current advisories 

TIMING & IMPACTS Precipitation has already entered over most of the region with rain possibly heavy at times today. A change over to snow is expected from west to east across the region tonight, beginning around 3 pm in the central Appalachians. Rain in the I-81 corridor is expected to change over to snow around 8 pm and progressing north and east through the overnight hours. 

The 95 corridor and adjacent counties in Maryland may start to see snowflakes after 1 am then a brief period of snow is possible over I-95 from Wilmington, DE to NYC. Precipitation is expected to depart from southwest to northeast starting near 3 am in central MD, with the back end of precipitation departing the interior Mid-Atlantic by mid morning and coastal areas by noon. 


Influence of heavy rainfall prior and lack of substantially cold air drives our low projections for the I-95 corridor. For the most part, right along I-95 and to the south and east, we expect a coating to an inch. To the north and west of I-95, accumulations will likely remain from 1-2 inches. Once you get north and west of northern VA, Frederick, MD, Westminster, MD, and Lancaster, PA, accumulations are expected to range from 2-4 inches. 


The I-81 corridor and just to the north is expected to receive some accumulating snow, likely 2-4 inches with some isolated spots to 6 inches from northern VA through Hagerstown, MD, Harrisburg, PA. North of Harrisburg, the region may see a general 3-6 inches, but higher elevations could see accumulations of approaching 10 inches. Other than that, highest amounts are expected in the mountains of West Virginia, northern Virginia, and western Maryland with a general 3-6 inches expected in that area along with isolated amounts of up to 8 inches.

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"Terracane" Over Midwest

It does look like a hurricane over land.  We had trees down and creeks flooded, so this was a severe storm.  Twelve hours of near non-stop rain pouring.  The winds stopped for a while but are predicted to be back until Sunday afternoon.  And a tornado watch until 9 p.m. tonight (southwest VA).  This after three tornadoes in the last storm, one 20 miles from where I live.  In an area not known for tornadoes. 

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We were just hit with a very powerful thunderstorm, second one this week.  Rain wasn't pouring, it was thundering.  Thunder wasn't thundering, it was bombs exploding.  Lightning was fierce and brilliant. It was a hold-your-breath-and-hope-you-don't-get-hit kind of storm.  And then the silence afterwards.  Spooky.

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Expect to see records keep being broken.  The article says it doesn't know if there has ever been 49 states with snow on the ground at the same time.  The answer is yes.  It happened last year, and like this year, Hawaii was the holdout.  So, this is the second year in a row this has happened.

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