Multiple-day threat likely to end tornado-free spell across Central Plains

Tornado near Elmore City

It has been a record quiet start in 2018 across “Tornado Alley,” the central portion of the country that traditionally receives the bulk of the nation’s twisters.

In fact, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska have yet to see a tornado this year; typically, there would have been nearly 50 tornadoes across these three states by the end of April.

But that is about to change, and potentially in a big way, as a multiday severe weather threat sets up this week over much of the Central Plains.

Frequent shots of cold air from repeated Arctic blasts have confined the warm and humid air needed for severe weather to the Southeast this spring, but longer days and an increasing sun angle are finally starting to win the battle against the cold.

Temperatures will climb into the 80s on Monday all the way up to South Dakota, setting the stage for the severe weather to heat up as well.

Storm threat increases each day

Monday through Wednesday, each day will see increasing chances for tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds from Texas to South Dakota.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says there is a “slight risk” for Monday, indicating that severe storms are possible for parts of western Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas as well as Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota.

The threat level increases on Tuesday as more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is pumped into the Central Plains, providing more juice for thunderstorms to develop.

An “enhanced risk,” level three out of five from the center, is expected for portions of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri on Tuesday.

Though the highest-risk region is fairly sparsely populated, there are a few larger cities facing severe weather, including Omaha and Kansas City.

Wednesday looks like the worst day

Wednesday looks to be the most likely day for severe storms. The enhanced risk area more than triples in size and expands to the south, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

A slow-moving cold front stretching from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains will provide a focus for storms to build off of, and key ingredients for tornadoes such as warm, humid air and strong winds will be in abundance across the Plains.

The result will be a “likelihood of widespread severe storms,” according to the Storm Prediction Center, and the risk level may increase as we get closer to Wednesday.

The forecast will continue to evolve, and the exact location and type of severe weather may change as scenario plays out, but it appears likely that severe storms will break out in Tornado Alley each afternoon through Wednesday.

Though this is nothing new for springtime in the Central Plains, it is certainly new for 2018, and residents should review safety plans for tornadoes in anticipation of the active week.