Severe weather outbreak may target central US next week

There is the potential for a storm that could kick off severe weather season with a bang next week, AccuWeather meteorologists say.

Severe weather has occurred year-round in just about every part of the nation, but the official start of the spring severe weather season is rapidly approaching. The historical average for the ramp-up in severe weather for the Central and Southern states is March to May.

Depending on the weather pattern, significant severe weather can begin to ramp up in late winter, and that is the concern in parts of the Central states before the end of February.

Before next week's potential outbreak, an area where thunderstorms may turn locally severe with torrential downpours, strong wind gusts and large hail will extend from southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma to portions of Kentucky and Tennessee from late Wednesday to Thursday evening.

A much larger and more volatile risk of severe weather may unfold by the middle of next week as warmer and moist air surges over the central and southern Plains and the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

Unusually warm air will be in place across the central United States early next week, with temperatures as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit above historical averages.

"There will likely be some twisting of the winds at different levels of the atmosphere," AccuWeather Senior Long-Range Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said. That twisting of the winds is referred to as wind shear and is a necessary ingredient for severe weather and tornadoes.

"The key to the exact timing and location of the severe weather will depend on the track and intensity of a storm that rolls out of the Southwest early next week," AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Joseph Bauer said.


While some of the first severe storms next week may erupt late Monday over western parts of Texas and Oklahoma, the two potential big days for severe weather will likely be Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

All modes of severe weather will be possible, including tornadoes, damaging hail and intense winds.

Forecasters say this is a good time to review spring severe weather preparedness, especially from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"There may be another opportunity for severe weather in early March for a portion of the Central states," AccuWeather's Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

As of Feb. 19, there have been 70 preliminary tornadoes in the U.S. this year, with two fatalities, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). The historical average to date is 87. However, one big outbreak could push numbers well above the average pace.

The deaths occurred during the biggest outbreak of the year so far, which spanned Jan. 8-9 and included about three dozen tornadoes. The strongest tornado thus far, an EF3 with winds of 136-165 mph, occurred as a waterspout moved onshore near Panama City, Florida, on Jan. 8, according to the National Weather Service.

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