More severe thunderstorms are in store for the western High Plains early in the weekend before a calmer weather pattern develops next week, AccuWeather forecasters say.
Thunderstorms will rage across parts of nine states through Saturday, bringing locally damaging gusts of wind that could kick up dust and dirt, large hail, torrential downpours and even a tornado or two.
Parts of the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains, and the Western Plains have been seeing intense thunderstorm activity on an almost daily basis for the past week and a half as storms turn on during the hottest hours of the day and subside when temperatures drop below the night. Since May 22, there have been hundreds of reports of severe weather from the borders of Mexico to Canada in more than a dozen states.
Severe weather reports received by the Storm Prediction Center for May 22-31.
That pattern will eventually start to change as the daily risk of severe storms begins to subside later over the weekend, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
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The next chance for severe weather to close out the week will come Thursday afternoon and evening in two separate areas. One will extend from the Rocky Mountains east to the Northern Plains, and the other risk zone will focus on the Southern Plains.
“Moving thunderstorms Thursday night will affect much of the same area that experienced damaging winds and large hail on Wednesday,” AccuWeather meteorologist Mary Gilbert said. “This includes parts of New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.”
The risk of damaging storms appears to be greatest in the Texas Panhandle, including the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock, as well as portions of Interstates 27 and 40. It is in this area that the risk of a tornado will be greatest.
Later in the evening, thunderstorms could reach as far east as the Oklahoma City area before they abate and die out.
“A separate area of severe thunderstorms will be found Thursday afternoon and evening from eastern Wyoming to Montana,” Gilbert added. While the tornado risk here appears lower than further south, any storm could produce strong gusts of wind and damaging hail.
On Friday, the multi-day threat could peak, with a moderate risk of severe weather highlighted by AccuWeather forecasters. Like Thursday, this distinction is made due to an increased risk of tornadoes.
“The region at risk for some tornadoes will extend hundreds of miles from near Odessa, Texas, north to the southwestern corner of Kansas,” Gilbert said. “Residents and businesses in this area will want to be extra vigilant Friday night through Friday night, due to the increased risk of tornadoes.”
In addition to the risk of tornadoes, damaging winds, and hail, thunderstorms in this part of the country present additional dangers. High winds can carry dirt and dust away from the center of the storm, drastically reducing visibility for motorists miles away. Lightning can also strike far from the center of a storm and is of particular concern to those who work or play outdoors. Four people have been killed by lightning strikes in the US so far this year, according to a database maintained by NOAA, including two Texas residents in May.
One more day of severe weather is forecast for Saturday before a slight change in the pattern lessens the chance of stronger storms in the central part of the nation beginning Sunday.
“Texas will again be targeted by storms to start the weekend, from the western part of the state to the Hill Country,” Gilbert said. A portion of southeastern New Mexico that has also been hit hard by severe weather of late will be included at risk.
The biggest concerns for forecasters as the storms begin this weekend will be hail, torrential rains and damaging winds. AccuWeather Local StormMax™ for winds will be 90 mph. Winds of this magnitude can easily topple trees, damage structures and even topple tractor-trailers.
While storms will continue to break out daily on the Plains from Sunday into next week due to daytime warming, the amount of energy available in the atmosphere will decrease, resulting in less risk of widespread severe weather.
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