Severe weather, including the risk of a small number of tornadoes, will return to the Plains this week with the bulk of the activity on Thursday.
The coverage and volatility of severe weather is forecast to increase late Wednesday to Thursday over the middle of the nation.
The potential for thunderstorms packing large hail, downpours and locally damaging wind later Wednesday into Wednesday night will reach from northeastern Colorado, across northern Nebraska and South Dakota to much of Wisconsin, Iowa and southern Minnesota. An arm of spotty severe storms will extend southward to west-central Texas as well.
Thursday's severe weather outbreak will yield numerous thunderstorms capable of producing dangerous weather ranging from frequent lightning strikes and damaging winds to large hail and flooding downpours. A small number of the storms can also produce tornadoes.
Unlike last week, the atmospheric setup this week is not favorable for a major tornado outbreak but a number of communities could be faced with dangerous and damaging weather conditions.
According to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Storm Warning Meteorologist Justin Pullin, "The setup this time favors more storms with straight-line wind gusts as opposed to tornadoes."
The strongest storms and hence the greatest risk to lives and property on Thursday will reach from central Minnesota, southward to north-central Texas.
Cities in this zone include Dallas and Tyler, Texas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Arkansas, Topeka and Wichita, Kansas, Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, Des Moines, Iowa and Minneapolis.
According to AccuWeather Long Range Expert Paul Pastelok, "The greatest atmospheric dynamics will be from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest, while the most humid air will be much farther south, hence the extensive severe weather threat zone on Thursday."
People are urged to keep up to date with forecasts, watches and warnings as they are issued and to seek shelter as storms approach. All it takes is one brief tornado to put people's lives in danger.
Motorists planning to travel on stretches of Interstates 29, 35, 40, 44, 49, 70 and 80 are at risk. Remember, a vehicle is a dangerous place to be when a tornado is approaching.
Dry air may keep a lid on storms until the last minute over the central and southern Plains.
The storms over the central and southern Plains will fire along what is known as a dry line, which separates desert air from the West and humid Gulf of Mexico air from the east.
The dry line may activate as early as late Wednesday afternoon and evening before the worst of the severe weather outbreak commences Thursday afternoon and continues into Thursday evening.
AccuWeather.com meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for gusty thunderstorms to rattle the Great Lakes on Friday, as well as drenching and stronger thunderstorms across the lower Mississippi Valley and Texas.
Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed content to this story.
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