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.