Severe weather outbreak, tornado risk poised to strike central US next week

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
April 26, 2018, 2:06:20 AM EDT

A change in the weather pattern is likely to trigger one or more rounds of severe weather, including tornadoes, over the central United States next week.

Areas at risk for severe weather and perhaps tornadoes may extend from the Plains to the Mississippi Valley and possibly farther east from the Great Lakes region to the Tennessee Valley.

"The overall magnitude, coverage and timing of the severe weather during the first week of May will depend on the speed and strength of a pair of storms moving out of the Rockies and onto the Plains," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

"Most likely, storms that develop next week will include the full spectrum of severe weather ranging from strong wind gusts and large hail to frequent lightning strikes and flash flooding," Pastelok said.

Static Severe Risk Next Week

At this time, there are two main scenarios that involve one to two storms and corresponding rounds of severe weather next week.

What's most certain is that warmth and humidity levels are forecast to surge over the region next week.

Temperatures are likely to climb well into the 60s, 70s and 80s F. With a breeze originating from the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, humidity levels should climb.

However, warmth and moisture alone may not lead to thunderstorms and severe weather. There needs to be a trigger such as a large-scale storm system to help get the air to rise and form towering clouds and thunderstorms.

The change in wind direction and speed at different levels of the atmosphere then determines the strength of the thunderstorms and whether or not some of the storms rotate and produce tornadoes.

In a scenario where two storms emerge into the central U.S., the first round would be associated with a fast-moving storm across the North Central states during Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

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Severe weather with this first of two storms may extend across the Plains before shifting eastward to parts of the Great Lakes and Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

"A spread of cooler air in the wake of this storm may limit a second round of severe weather to areas farther south late next week into the first weekend of May," Pastelok said.

The second round of severe weather may be the most intense and emerge from the southern Rockies. Correspondingly, severe weather may then focus farther south from the central and southern Plains to the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys late next week.

However, if there is no storm during the first part of next week, warm and humid air is likely to remain over much of the Central states for much of next week.

In this scenario, a storm is likely to travel from the southern Rockies toward the Great Lakes late next week into the first weekend of May.

That swath of severe weather in the one-storm scenario may sweep eastward over a broad area from the southern and central Plains to the Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

Timing and coverage of the severe weather threat areas may change as more information becomes available.

Check back for updates on the potential severe weather outbreak(s).

Static tornado safety

Despite a lack of tornadoes in many areas of the Plains, including the entire states of Kansas and Oklahoma thus far, people should review their plan of action, step by step, when the weather is tranquil. A review now may save valuable seconds later, when a severe thunderstorm or tornado is approaching.

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