The risk of severe weather, including isolated tornadoes through this weekend, will focus on portions of the central United States that have seen few to no violent storms thus far this spring, AccuWeather meteorologists say.
Meanwhile, some areas of the hard-hit South Central and Southeast regions should catch a welcome break this weekend.
There have only been a couple of days so far this spring where a severe weather outbreak affected a large portion of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. The most recent event was on April 12, which featured about a dozen reports of tornadoes and dozens of high wind and hail incidents. A more concentrated and violent outbreak of severe weather occurred on March 5, when at least 40 tornadoes were reported from Iowa and Missouri to Ohio and severe weather incidents numbered at least 200.
A strong storm system will spin toward the Canada border of the Central states this weekend and unleash yet another blizzard for portions of the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.
A major outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is not anticipated through this weekend, despite the strength of the storm system. However, the risk for both will push slowly to the east into progressively more densely populated areas of the Plains and Midwest along and ahead of a cold front.
A few isolated tornadoes can occur anywhere in the severe weather threat zones each day through Sunday, forecasters say. All it takes is for one tornado to strike a populated area to pose a great risk to lives and property. While tornadoes may be low overall with this setup, storms capable of producing large hail and strong winds could result in considerable risk and damage some communities.
The greatest risk of tornadoes will likely be over the northern third of the zone into Friday night in portions of South Dakota and Nebraska. Storms that erupt anywhere over the Plains and Upper Midwest into Friday night will carry the potential to bring damaging hail and high winds.
The risk of severe thunderstorms on Saturday will push eastward and extend along a 1,100-mile-long swath from eastern North Dakota and much of Minnesota, southward to much of Oklahoma and north-central Texas. Not every location within this massive zone and advancing cold front will be hit with severe weather, but some storms can turn nasty as they unleash high winds and large hail.
Along with Minneapolis and Oklahoma City, other major cities at risk for severe thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening include Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, Kansas City, Mo., and Wichita and Topeka, Kan.
The risk of an isolated tornado or a thunderstorm with damaging wind and hail will extend into Saturday night. Experts say people will need to have the means to stay weather aware and receive the latest severe weather bulletins. By the time the cold front pushes through the Chicago metro area Sunday morning, when daytime heating will be near the minimum, the storms should be less intense. Still, a few neighborhoods may experience some thunder, vivid lightning and brief gusty downpours.
The passage of that front will mark an end to the surge of summerlike warmth in much of the Plains and Midwest. Temperatures will be no better than the lower 70s on Sunday following a high in the lower 80s on Saturday. By Monday, the temperatures may struggle to reach the mid-50s.
On Sunday, the overall risk of violent thunderstorms will be lower. However, a few locally severe thunderstorms are still anticipated during the afternoon and evening along the advancing cold front.
The greatest concentration of locally severe storms on Sunday may be in portions of central and western Texas, southeastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas. However, some gusty storms can also occur in parts of the Ohio Valley and central Great Lakes regions.
The southwestern portion of the front is forecast to stall from Sunday and Monday. This boundary with cool air to the north and warm and humid air to the south is likely to lead to repeating showers and thunderstorms. The total rainfall from these persistent storms could lead to urban and small stream flooding, forecasters warn.
Some of the drenching downpours into the start of next week may extend far enough to the west to reach some communities in western and central parts of Texas and Oklahoma that are struggling with long-term drought and heightened wildfire danger. Since early in July 2021, Abilene, Texas, has only received about 49 of its normal rainfall. From July 1 to April 22, rainfall averages 17.89 inches, but a rainfall total of only 8.73 inches has been recorded there. By comparison, Houston typically receives about 40 inches of rain for the same period and has had about 75 of average, or a little over 32 inches, since July 1.
Portions of the lower southern Plains are not the only region at risk for flooding problems.
In areas about 1,000 miles farther to the north, the Red River of the North is forecast to surge out of its banks for the second time this year due to the second thaw that will be ongoing, AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz said.
Like that of early to mid-April, a second crest is forecast toward the end of the month as the snow that fell in recent weeks melts and combines with rain. “At Grand Forks, N.D., the river crested at 32.28 feet, which is the river’s minor flood stage for that location, on April 15-16 and is projected to sneak above 34 feet in late April,” Benz said.
Flooding problems are still expected to be relatively minor in most areas despite the late onslaught of winter storms and heavy snowfall, and another snowstorm may hit toward the end of April, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
As the snow melts in the coming weeks over the northern High Plains, it should be mainly beneficial due to long-term abnormally dry to severe drought conditions in western portions of the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. Only if a tremendous rainstorm were to hit while there is a deep snow cover on the ground might flooding problems escalate in the region.