Are the conditions ripe for a tornado outbreak?


If you are a follower of social media and have a weather interest like myself, you have probably seen a few articles talking about the potential weather outbreak headed towards Tornado Alley this week.  Is this a possibility; yes.  Is it likely; not really.  But you gotta love some of the remarks by the arm chair forecasters calling for the next Joplin or Moore.

It all starts with a visit to our favorite website in the spring, the Storm Prediction Center.  This is a public site so you too can go and see the outlooks for the next eight days.    Sure enough, the SPC has been pushing this Thursday through Sunday as an active weather period.  So much that yesterday the SPC issued an unprecedented midday update to the Day 3 outlook.  Granted, it didn’t go above Enhanced Risk this morning, so was that really necessary is to be determined.

So let’s set the table on this event.  A series of storms will rotate through the nation, sucking up warm, moist air into the central regions.  With a cold front or a dry line passing through every two days or so from the west will be the focus for thunderstorm development.  Thursday is focused over Kansas and Oklahoma, then it moves east into Missouri and Illinois on Friday.  Another storm comes into play on Saturday over the same areas and moves into our region Sunday.  

Each storm system has the potential to put down big hail and a few tornadoes, but the risk is what we call “conditional”, meaning it’s not a sure thing.  The biggest pin to the balloon in these setups is morning showers across the region.  It’s like cooling off a fire with a hose; it takes away the fuel for more explosive activity.  So if we get rain in the mornings before these systems move through, the threat is less.  If we get sunshine and sultry conditions, the pressure cooker starts to bubble and brew.  

Each day will have its own challenge, so there is no way at this time on Wednesday to accurately forecast the development of storms, let alone the big twister.  But we watch and wait, patiently.  We know a little more today; we will know a little more tomorrow morning.

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