US northern Plains states brace for 2nd round of violent storms

·8 min read

Severe weather rocked the northern Plains on Tuesday afternoon and night, with dozens of high wind and massive hail reports coming in. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that the next round of severe weather has the potential to be much worse than Tuesday's outbreak for some communities over parts of the region as a stronger storm system swings through into Thursday night.

Some of the cities that could be hit by storms on Thursday night include Rapid City, Pierre and Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Minot, and Bismarck, North Dakota; Scottsbluff, North Platte and Omaha, Nebraska; and Miles City and Glasgow, Montana.

The new storm system will attack a dome of heat that has delivered multiple days of 90-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures over a broad area of the North Central states. The persistence of the 90-degree weather is unusual for this early in the season, AccuWeather forecasters say, and some areas like the Twin Cities may take a run at records.

On this image, captured early Wednesday morning on June 9, 2021, leftover thunderstorms from Tuesday's event can be seen over the Dakotas and Nebraska (right of center), while clouds from the next storm system were visible over the Pacific Northwest (left portion). (CIRA at Colorado State/GOES-East)

AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said that the storm event on Thursday stands out from Tuesday's event "as there will be an even more potent dip in the jet stream that sweeps across the region from the Pacific Northwest."

"The atmosphere will be primed by plenty of moisture and heating of the day for thunderstorms to explode into Thursday night," Benz explained.

Even though many of the thunderstorms are expected to occur in the wide open spaces in the region, there will be risks to livestock, crops, ranchers, small communities and even some larger cities.

Not only will the next round of severe weather hit much of the same zone as Tuesday's storms, but the risk also extends farther to the east where there is a bit more density in population in the eastern portions of the Dakotas and eastern Nebraska. The risk area also includes parts of northern Kansas and the western borders of Minnesota and Iowa.

Tuesday's storms focused on an area from eastern Wyoming to the western part of the Dakotas and the northeastern counties of Montana with several dozen severe weather reports that included multiple incidents of high winds and hail. Gusts topping 90 mph were reported and hail in some communities exceeded the size of golf balls -- with diameters of hailstones reaching up to 4 inches.

A few thunderstorms erupted over parts of the northern Plains into Wednesday evening, bringing wind gusts of up to 60 mph in some locations, but otherwise paling in comparison to storms from Tuesday and especially those on Thursday.

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Even though many of the thunderstorms are expected to occur in the wide open spaces in the region, there will be risks to livestock, crops, ranchers, small communities and even some larger cities.

And, it is not just the U.S. where the storms may strike a powerful blow. Adjacent areas of southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also forecast to face severe weather.

It is possible that some of the severe storms reach as far to the north as Regina, Saskatchewan, and Brandon and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"Large hail and damaging winds will be the primary concern of the severe weather event on Thursday, and we cannot rule out tornadoes, especially early in the lifecycle of the thunderstorms," Benz said.

Not only will the next round of severe weather hit much of the same zone as Tuesday's storms, but the risk also extends farther to the east where there is a bit more density in population in the eastern portions of the Dakotas and eastern Nebraska. The risk area also includes parts of northern Kansas and the western borders of Minnesota and Iowa.

With a more potent storm, more incidents of severe weather are likely, when compared to Tuesday's event. Wind gusts ranging from 75-100 mph are possible. An AccuWeather StormMax™ wind gust of 110 mph, which is as high as maximum sustained winds of a strong Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, is projected in a couple of the strongest storms.

Motorists on the highways, including interstates 25, 76, 80, 90 and 94, as well as Canada Highway 1, should keep alert for rapidly changing weather conditions on their travels. High winds in some of the storms alone may easily flip over trucks, campers and other high-profile vehicles.

Another threat from the storms, especially as they erupt and cruise through mountainous areas of the interior Northwest, will be the potential for lightning strikes with little or no rainfall. Lightning is a common natural mechanism to ignite wildfires. Both rounds of storms through Thursday have the potential to ignite blazes.

Despite this, some areas may be impacted by flooding downpours. While storms are likely to move quickly and not linger in one place for too long, rainfall rates will be high.

The storm system is also expected to bring more storms that can produce big hail ranging from the size of golf balls to baseballs and even grapefruit. By Thursday evening, reports of quarter-sized hail were erupting in Montana.

The storms on Tuesday produced hailstones to the size of tennis balls, baseballs and even grapefruit, according to the Storm Prediction Center. A remote location several miles east of Glendive, Montana was hit with the massive 4-inch diameter hail on Tuesday afternoon. Hail ranging in diameter from 2.50 to 2.75 inches fell on Wibaux County, Montana, and near the town of Skaar, South Dakota, during Tuesday afternoon.

Most locations received much less rainfall from Tuesday's storms and a number of locations missed out on rain entirely. As of the most recent United States Drought Monitor report from June 3, several days prior to Tuesday's storms, conditions across the northern Plains ranged from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. More rain is needed, but once again that may come at the price of severe and even violent storms on Thursday.

While most wind gusts in the severe storms were reported to have ranged from 50-70 mph, gusts as high as 86 mph were measured in rural areas of Ziebach County, North Dakota, and Roosevelt County, Montana, during the early evening hours. A gust to 94 mph was reported in a remote area 11 miles south of the town of Bullhead, South Dakota. Reports of damage, downed trees and power outages were sparse due to the remote locations affected.

A single tornado was reported by a National Weather Service storm spotter in a rural area of Corson County, South Dakota, late Tuesday afternoon with no reports of injuries or damage with the incident.

During Tuesday evening, 1.91 inches of rain fell on Rapid City, South Dakota, and broke the prior record for the date of 1.4 inches set in 1964. On average, Rapid City only picks up 7.53 inches of rain and melted snow from Jan. 1 to June 8. The rain that fell in less than three hours Tuesday evening makes up about 25% of their annual rainfall to date. The downpour has boosted Rapid City's rainfall for the year so far to 91% of normal and will go a long way in easing local drought conditions.

Through June 9, Minneapolis has had eight days in a row with highs in the 90s, including three days in a row of record highs. Temperatures Friday, June, 4, climbed to 97 and broke the old record of 96 set in 1968. On Saturday, June 5, the temperature soared to 99 and shattered the old record of 92 set in 1925 and 1911. Most recently, on Wednesday, June 9, the temperature climbed to 96 and broke the old record of 95 set in 1911. This is the first time since May 2018 the city has had six consecutive days with a high of 90 degrees or more.

Highs are forecast to reach the 90s in Minneapolis and in much of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest through the end of the week. When the string finally breaks Saturday, with highs forecast to be in the upper 80s in the Twin Cities following a nine-day stretch of highs in the 90s.

Should the city hit these marks, it would tie for third place in longest streaks of 90-degree temperatures in a row set most recently in July 2006. The all-time record for consecutive 90-degree highs or greater was in July during the blistering summer of 1936 and the Dust Bowl Era. The city hits 90 an average of 14 times a year with the all-time record of 44 set during the summer of 1988.

Any break from the 90-degree heat over the weekend is likely to be brief in the wake of the late-week storm system. Temperatures are forecast to rebound back to hot levels by next week in much of the North Central states as surging heat from the West will expand eastward once again.

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