Dangerous outbreak of tornadoes in the Plains will kick off busy week of severe weather

As AccuWeather meteorologists correctly forecasted, another dangerous outbreak of severe weather, including strong and long-track tornadoes, unfolded through Monday night.

AccuWeather meteorologists first raised the potential of severe weather for this stretch of May back in April and have been raising the severe weather threat level since early last week. An 'extreme' risk of severe weather, including tornadoes, was issued by AccuWeather Monday morning, which is rare and reserved for the most dangerous events.

The extreme classification implies the risk of multiple dangerous, strong, long-track tornadoes.

On Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a "potentially dangerous situation (PDS)" watch area because of the seriousness of the event.

A tornado near Interstate 80 in Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 26, 2024. (Nebraska Department of Transportation)

This dangerous weather will kick off another multi-day episode of severe storms that will expand east to also include parts of the Midwest, East, and South through the rest of the week. After that, a change in the weather pattern will bring a much-needed break in the stormy weather for the nation's heartland.

Following a relative lull in severe weather over the weekend, the same storm that brought heavy rain, mountain snow and gusty winds to the West will emerge in the Plains. It was this system, combined with a warm and humid air mass, that sparked the tornadic thunderstorms to start the week, say AccuWeather meteorologists.

Thunderstorms rapidly erupted from west-central Kansas to central Nebraska, western South Dakota, and southeastern Montana on Monday afternoon.

Severe thunderstorms then raced across these states, while thunderstorms quickly developed in west-central Oklahoma, through Monday night, producing over 200 reports of hail, damaging wind gusts and tornadoes. A strong tornado moved through the towns of Barnsdall and Bartlesville, Oklahoma Monday evening, causing significant damage and leading to at least one casualty, according to the Osage County Sheriff's Office.

As of early Tuesday morning, over 50,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas as a line of severe thunderstorms moved through the states.

Monday's extreme risk was the first issued by AccuWeather since April 4, 2023. In addition to April 4, the only other extreme risk in 2023 was a few days earlier on March 31.


This region has been no stranger to severe weather lately, with more than 100 confirmed tornadoes, some deadly, and over 1,000 incidents of severe weather reported since April 25. That tally is sure to grow in the coming days.

By Tuesday and Tuesday night, while the severe weather and tornado threat will shift largely out of the central Plains, it will impact millions more from Arkansas to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including in the metropolitan areas of Chicago and Indianapolis.

"The Tuesday morning commute is likely to be a slow one as a line of thunderstorms roars through areas from St. Louis to Fort Smith, Arkansas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tyler Roys. "Chicagoland should also get in on these potentially strong storms in the morning."

There are some questions about how primed the atmosphere will be for storms later in the day, farther south and east on Tuesday, thus leading to lower risk categories for severe weather. Despite that, thunderstorms are still expected to develop again later in the day after some daytime heating provides fuel for the atmosphere.

The zone at moderate risk from severe thunderstorms, including several tornadoes, stretches outward from much of Indiana to southeastern Illinois, western Ohio and western and central Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

The risk for severe thunderstorms will not abate after Tuesday. AccuWeather meteorologists say that dozens more states will be threatened by storms during the mid- and late-week periods. New injections of atmospheric energy will be responsible for maintaining this threat through at least Friday, extending all the way to the East Coast.

"A more potent day of severe weather is anticipated on Wednesday as an area of low pressure develops across the eastern Plains into Missouri," said Roys. "Widespread severe thunderstorm activity, including the risk of flash flooding, damaging winds, hail and tornadoes, can occur from northeastern Texas to the Ohio Valley."

Included in the risk area on Wednesday will be many of the same areas that were under at least 'some' risk for severe weather on Tuesday. Additionally, AccuWeather meteorologists have increased the risk for severe weather on Wednesday to 'high' across southern Illinois, southern Indiana, western Kentucky, southeastern Missouri and far northwestern Tennessee.

The likelihood of severe weather will extend to the Atlantic coast and toward the Gulf coast later this week.

By the time this week ends, it will have been over two weeks since the recent rash of severe weather and violent tornadoes kicked off in the Plains. With little in the way of breaks in between weather systems over that timeframe, those cleaning up from the storms will be happy to know a much-needed break in storminess is in the forecast, say AccuWeather meteorologists.

Drier air expanding across the Plains beginning on Friday, but especially during the upcoming weekend dates of May 11 and 12, will lead to a much quieter weather pattern across the region. This is especially great news because Mother's Day falls on May 12.

Even after those dates, early in the following week, conditions should remain quieter than earlier in May because the amount of energy in the atmosphere appears displaced from the region and weaker than is required for severe weather outbreaks.