We are coming down to the final hours before this expected outbreak gets underway. The Storm Prediction Center has reversed it’s contraction of the slight risk for much of central and eastern Iowa and moved it back into place. This is for the threat of strong winds and large hail into the overnight hours. Areas of central Iowa, especially Des Moines and points west, still have a risk over late night tornadoes that also needs to be monitored.
But the big story, as you can see in the graphics above and below, are further to the west. The SPC has also honed in their high risk for today. A large swatch of land from Oklahoma, to Kansas, Nebraska and portions of extreme western Iowa remain under a high risk for severe weather today. Within this area, all modes of severe weather will be possible this afternoon and evening. Of main concern will be the threat of strong, violent, long track tornadoes capable of producing life-threatening conditions.
In the graphic below you can see the tornado risk is as high in some places as it can ever get. If you are not familiar with these probabilities let me quickly explain. The “bullseye” of 45% means that if you were standing within that are, there is a 45% chance a tornado will strike within 25 miles of your location. Normally, a 5% risk is good enough to get a storm chaser out. 45% is something rarely seen during a severe weather season.
What it means is that forecasters are not only concerned about a few violent tornadoes, they’re also concerned about dozens of tornadoes overall. Coupled with damaging straight-line winds and very large hail, this system has all the ingredients in place for a very widespread damaging event.
While some may not agree with the “crying wolf” mentality that sometimes takes shape in situations like this, there is simply little else you can do on a day like this. With all we know and all we don’t know about severe weather, we have to take out best shot. And everything that we know about the development of powerful storms is telling us there will be a lot of them today and millions of people could be in the path of these strong storms.
These warnings are not to frighten, but to educate, inform and hopefully prepare people in the possibly path. That’s why I will continue to urge everyone in this area to have an action plan ready in case the weather turns bad. And if you’re not in this area but know someone who is, make sure they are ready and keeping up to date with what’s going on.
Our storm chaser Ben McMillan is on the road right now heading for the Grand Island, NE area. We plan to have his live video up later today and will launch additional resources if needed. And we’ll also have continuing updates throughout the day and night so stay tuned.