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Christmas severe weather episode may threaten lives from Oklahoma to Nebraska

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 25, 2016, 7:32:27 PM EST

    A major winter storm will continue to rattle the central Plains with severe thunderstorms into Christmas evening.

    The severe weather threat includes the potential for a tornado or two. The greatest risk for tornadoes will be near and north of Interstate 70 over the central Plains.

    South and east of blizzard conditions, a surge of warm air over the central and southern Plains will increase the risk for violent thunderstorms on Christmas.

    "People across the central Plains will need to keep an eye out for rapidly changing weather conditions," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.

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    "A line of thunderstorms will continue to march eastward across the central Plains into Sunday evening," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.

    "The strongest thunderstorms within this line have had a history of producing damaging wind gusts to 60 mph," Pydynowski said.

    An emergency manager reported roof damage due to the winds in Snyder, Oklahoma, earlier on Sunday.

    Additional property damage may result into the evening hours. There is a likelihood of sporadic power outages and secondary road closures due to fallen trees and high water.

    "The strongest thunderstorms will also produce brief downpours," Pydynowski said, "but there can be a few isolated tornadoes and localized hail."

    The thunderstorms will cross Tulsa, Oklahoma; Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska.

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    The line of thunderstorms will reach the I-35 corridor east of Wichita during Christmas evening.

    "Locally damaging winds will not be confined to this line of thunderstorms," Pydynowski said. "Such winds will continue to occur ahead of and behind the line into the

    By early Monday, the storms will lose some of their intensity. However, there can still be some trouble for people catching a flight or making the commute back to work. There can still be a long zone of showers and thunderstorms with locally heavy rain and gusty winds from Michigan to Arkansas and northeastern Texas as Monday progresses.

    "Despite the time of the year, severe weather occasionally occurs in this part of the nation with storm systems such as this," Rossio said.

    The last severe weather outbreak to occur on Christmas Day was in 2012. It was centered over the lower Mississippi Valley. More than two dozen tornadoes were spawned during the event that continued into Dec. 26. The storms killed 16 people.

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