Another tornado outbreak looms for Plains states just days away

As cleanup and damage assessment operations continue in the tornado-ravaged Great Plains from multiple rounds of severe weather, the atmosphere is getting ready to deal yet another blow as a new storm is brewing and is poised to deliver another tornado outbreak as soon as early next week, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

Following a lull in widespread violent weather from Friday to Sunday, the hits from Mother Nature keep coming as a series of storms continues to roll in from the Pacific Ocean, traverses the Rockies and taps into surging Gulf of Mexico moisture and building warmth over the Great Plains.

Drenching thunderstorms will continue to rumble over parts of the central United States this weekend ahead of the potential outbreak.

"There's another tornado outbreak looming for the Central states," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said of the situation for Monday, May 6.

In an effort to keep people safe and informed of risks to lives and property, AccuWeather meteorologists have outlined a zone from western South Dakota to southern Oklahoma that also arches through eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, western and central Iowa and western Missouri for Monday.

"Dozens of tornadoes are possible with the situation on Monday afternoon and evening over parts of Plains," Rayno said.

"With yet again the expectation for a volatile atmospheric setup favoring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, our meteorologists are increasingly concerned that the tornado outbreak can even include some particularly intense or long-track tornadoes. Such tornadoes can be especially dangerous and result in significant property damage, especially if a populated area is struck, as sadly seen in recent weeks," AccuWeather Senior Vice President and Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said.

Some of the tornadoes on Monday may strike the more dense population centers over the lower Plains versus the more sparse, wide-open prairies of the High Plains.

"It appears nearly the same atmospheric setup will unfold early next week," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok warned. "While every situation is a bit different, there will be the combination of a strong jet stream barreling in with high pressure over the Gulf of Mexico poised to pump juicy air from the Gulf of Mexico."

Not only will many of the same areas be at risk for severe weather early next week as that of April 26-27, but more areas on the Plains will be at risk, including areas significantly farther north, Past elok explained.

The number of filtered reports of severe weather for the stretch spanning April 26-28 was 485, of which 159 were tornado reports, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as of May 1. The late-April outbreak took the lives of four people and injured dozens.

The exact number of tornadoes versus straight-line wind gust damage continues to be investigated and analyzed by NOAA officials. As of May 1, that number is greater than 100 and includes an EF4-rated tornado in southern Oklahoma at Marietta, with winds as high as 170 mph and a track of 27 miles.

Even though the chance of a tornado passing directly through a particular neighborhood is low in most severe weather situations and the percentage chance of a tornado striking the exact same area that was hit recently is minuscule, there are other more far-reaching thunderstorm factors to consider.

"Many locations are still in cleanup and damage assessment mode, and this new round of storms may interfere with that," Pastelok said. "There is the potential for damaging straight-line wind gusts and torrential downpours that can not only disrupt things but cause further damage to exposed compromised buildings and homes."

Tornado damage at Elkhorn, Nebraska April 27, 2024. (NWS)

Tornado damage at Elkhorn, Nebraska April 27, 2024. (NWS)

There is also the physiological factor to consider in the many communities that have been decimated or families who are dealing with the loss of loved ones.


The rounds of severe weather and tornadoes mark a comeback in part of "tornado alley," which has been somewhat asleep in the past few years when more of a focus on severe weather has been on the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley and Southeast regions.

"Sometimes reaching out by phone, text, email or social media to let a friend or family member know about the risk for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash flooding could help save their life," Porter said, "In recent devastating tornadoes, so many lives were saved by people receiving weather warnings and promptly moving to safe shelter."

AccuWeather meteorologists expect severe thunderstorms to extend from southeastern Minnesota and southern Wisconsin to much of Arkansas, western Oklahoma and northeastern Texas on Tuesday.

Severe weather season, including tornadoes, continues to ramp up through much of May before gradually easing in June.

However, the frequency of severe weather and tornadoes tends to increase well into the summer in the northern third of the country, as these areas tend to hang on to leftover winter cool air and chilly Great Lakes and North Atlantic waters.

Along with the likelihood of a severe weather outbreak that includes tornadoes early next week, there will be a zone of high winds over the southwestern Plains. The strong winds will progress eastward with the storm as it moves through the West this weekend.

This is an area that has experienced multiple bouts of strong winds that have raised the danger of wildfires since late winter. Of the incidents, the Smokehouse Creek Fire was the largest at nearly 1,700 square miles in Texas and Oklahoma.

"Not only will the strong winds on the southern side of the potent storm system result in a very high fire risk, but they will also kick up a considerable amount of dust in portions of the central and southern Plains," Rayno said.

AccuWeather released its official wildfire season forecast in April.

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