Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Severe Weather Popping Up In Nation's Middle For The Rest Of The Week

It's possible a tornado could do this kind of
damage this week somewhere in the middle of the
country, but we can hope that any tornadoes that
form are out in open country and miss towns.  
The nation's most significant outbreak of tornadoes, big hail and severe thunderstorm winds so far this season is almost sure to develop this week.

Actually, large parts of the country, in a line from Texas to Nebraska on east to the East Coast will have the threat of some type of severe weather at some time during the next few days.

From my perspective, it's interesting to try to thread the needle between overhyping things and being complacent right before a pretty big outbreak of bad weather.

On one hand, as Dennis Morrisseau outlined in the Gawker weather blog The Vane, there's a lot of screaming and yelling and pulling hair among the weather media and some of us weather geeks online

As bad as the Super Outbreak of April 27, 2011 when zillions died in tornadoes!!!! Zillions more across the nation at grave risk and we're all going to die this week of being blown away in unprecedented EF20 tornadoes!!!!!!!!! (Editor's note: There's no such thing as anything more powerful than an EF5 tornado)

So, reality check. Calm the hell down, will ya?

This tornado and severe storm outbreak will NOT be as bad as ones that happened on and around the April 27, 2011. That episode spun off something like 200 tornadoes that killed 313 people - a true, tragic, massive disaster.

While there's a chance that a couple neighborhoods could be totally trashed in this outbreak, which of course is bad news, this won't rise to the level of 2011.

And yes, technically, tens of millions of people are "at risk" of damaging and dangerous severe weather. However, for the overwhelming majority of these tens of millions of people, all they have to do is pay attention to forecasts and warnings, and get indoors when severe weather approaches.

A few of these people might end up cowering in basements as a tornado rips apart their houses above them, but for most people, the damage will be limited to maybe a brief power failure, a branch broken from the tree outside, or a little hail dent or two in Toyota Corolla parked in the driveway.

It's too bad we still can't predict the exact path of tornadoes more than a few minutes ahead of time.

On the other side is complacency. Some people hear a tornado warning, yawn, then go back to watching "The Big Bang Theory." And then complain bitterly and selfishly when the repeated tornado warnings pre-empt "The Big Bang Theory."

Or worse, when a warning is issued and the meteorologists tell you to go hide in the basement, people go outside to look for the funnel. Or even worse, get in their car and chase the damn tornado, even though they have no experience doing that and such a chase could be fatal.

After you watch this video of the ultimate stupidity, "Let's go for a leisurely walk amid falling baseball sized hailstones!" I'll get into the specifics of where, generally, and how extensive the severe weather might get.

Early this morning, a lone severe thunderstorm managed to pop up and roam across southeastern Kansas. That's the opening salvo.

A few, relatively isolated thunderstorms could get going this afternoon in and around Missouri, Iowa and Indiana today amid a general zone of showers, thunderstorms, rain and downpours. The tornado threat is quite low, but if one forms, the most likely area is southeastern Kansas. Several more spots will see some big hail and potentially damaging winds.

The real show starts tomorrow in Iowa, western Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and maybe into parts of north Texas.

The forecasters at NOAA's Storm Prediction Center at this point are thinking the severe storms in this zone will be kind of widely scattered and certainly won't hit every place in this zone. But a few of the supercell storms that do form could be real doozies.

They'll grow explosively from just a cloud to a rotating supercell seemingly in minutes. Some of these supercells could spin off possibly a pretty strong tornado or two, a few weaker tornadoes, some gigantic hail and of course the ever present strong, damaging thunderstorm wind gusts.

The most active day will probably be Thursday and the focus will probably be in and around southern Wisconsin, Illinois, down the Mississippi Valley and through Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and northeastern Texas, says the Storm Prediction Center. 

There will probably be a hodgepodge of supercell thunderstorms out ahead of a cold front with the risk of tornadoes, and a line of bad storms just ahead of that cold front. Those storms, some severe, will move east into the Ohio Valley Thursday evening and night.

With the risk of tornadoes and other thunderstorm damage in this rather heavily populated area of the country, people will want to pay attention to forecasts and do what reputable forecasters tell you to do.

In other words, don't panic, but if you happen to get a tornado warning where you live and work, take shelter.

The worst of the storms tend to happen around the evening rush hour. If you're ready to drive home from work but there's a supercell or squall line close by and heading your way with big hail, strong winds or even a tornado, it's best not to drive home. Wait it out, wait until the worst of it goes by, then go home when it's safer.

On Friday, the threat of severe storms shifts to the Mid-Atlantic coast, from Georgia, up through the Carolinas and as far north as New Jersey.

There's the risk of more severe weather in the middle of the country possibly next weekend or next week as the weather pattern has evolved into a classic spring time one.

Which is good in terms of widespread mild temperatures but bad if you don't like rambunctious thunderstorms in the middle of the country.

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