Multiday severe weather event to target Plains, threatening tornadoes

Following a relatively quiet start to September for thunderstorms, a multi-day severe weather event will impact a large portion of the nation's heartland into the weekend, bringing a risk of damaging storms to nearly a dozen states, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

These storms could impact cities such as Dallas, Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha, Oklahoma City and Wichita. The strongest thunderstorms can pack damaging winds and hail over the next few days, and there is even the chance of a tornado or two spinning up.

There is a silver lining amid the threat of heavy storms, as the rain that falls will be greatly needed due to a long-lasting drought in many areas. The counter to that good news is that the rain could fall furiously enough to cause flooding, slowing travel during commutes and also jeopardizing some outdoor weekend plans.

The impetus for the severe weather will be a broad area of low pressure moving out of the West and Rockies and a series of fronts associated with it. With just enough moisture in place, this will set up a clash of air masses that will persist for multiple days over the central U.S.

"A multi-day severe weather event will unfold across the central U.S., ahead of a slow-moving storm," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.


Earlier this week, on Tuesday, thunderstorms fired near a stalled front in Oklahoma and northern Texas, leading to hail as large as tennis balls and wind gusts over 70 mph.

A greater threat of severe weather is expected to unfold on Saturday as the energy from the western low-pressure system arrives. AccuWeather meteorologists have upgraded the severe risk from "some" to "moderate" for portions of the Plains and Midwest for Saturday.

Even though torrential downpours could slow travel and potentially cause flooding, the rain will be beneficial in helping to provide some relief from drought conditions in this region. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released on Thursday morning, 'extreme' or 'exceptional' drought, the two worst categories, covered more than 15 percent of Nebraska.

Additionally, runoff from heavy rain can prove beneficial down the line for commercial traffic on the Mississippi River, which is near a record-low water level for the second year in a row.

The U.S. Drought Monitor from Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

From late Saturday into Saturday night, a large area extending from central Oklahoma to southern Minnesota will face gusty thunderstorms.

Embedded in that large area is another "moderate" risk for severe storms, this time impacting an area with a larger population across the Missouri River Valley, including Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Omaha, Nebraska, and a portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The last time AccuWeather issued at least a moderate risk for severe storms anywhere in the country was on Wednesday, Sept. 6, more than two weeks ago.

Atmospheric conditions will be favorable for storms to produce very large hailstones, tornadoes and destructive wind gusts. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ for winds on Saturday is the highest of the entire multi-day event at 90 mph, which would be more than enough to knock down trees and power lines, as well as cause damage to some structures.

A few college football games being played in the nation's midsection could be impacted or delayed by storms as they roll through.

"Thunderstorms could threaten Ames, Iowa, during the afternoon hours as Iowa State hosts Oklahoma State at 3:00 p.m. central time," added Pydynowski. "The game between BYU and Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, could be impacted by gusty storms as well."

According to AccuWeather experts, the threat of severe weather is not expected to end on Saturday. Depending on how the low-pressure system evolves, the risk of damaging storms could extend into a fourth day on Sunday, most likely from the southern Plains into the Arklatex region.

Little, if any, thunderstorm activity will move into the rest of the Midwest and Great Lakes region on Sunday, as a strong area of high pressure will be in control, promoting sunshine and dry weather.

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