AccuWeather forecasters warn of significant tornado risk

·5 min read

AccuWeather meteorologists say rounds of intense thunderstorms, some packing strong tornadoes, will pose a significant risk to lives and property across portions of the northern and central Plains through Monday night and into Tuesday.

This comes amid an already busy stretch of severe weather. As storms began to ramp up, over 20 reports of severe hail and damaging winds were received by the Storm Prediction Center on Saturday. Winds gusted to 75-mph near Gillette, Wyoming, and Buffalo, South Dakota.

The stormy skies made an appearance yet again Sunday evening and overnight, with storms rattling portions of the central and northern Plains. Storms produced strong and locally damaging winds in far western Nebraska, before unleashing hail larger than softballs near Taylor, Nebraska, approximately 90 miles northeast of North Platte, Nebraska. Early Monday morning those intense storms advanced into South Dakota and Minnesota with a threat of damaging winds, hail and tornadoes.

Flooding also continued to be a concern. Rainfall from such intense storms can fall faster than the ground can soak it in, leading to a threat of flash flooding.

As forecasters have recently noted, many of these areas have been slammed by severe weather that featured destructive winds recently. Earlier in the month, a derecho blasted the northern Plains with 100-mph winds, leaving two people dead.

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The severe weather threat will continue through Monday night. AccuWeather forecasters expect the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota to fall within the highest threat area. Early Monday evening, a tornado was seen on the ground in Pipestone, Minnesota, while a report of tornado damage was reported around the same time in Forada, Minnesota. The damage in Forada included a destroyed local home, as well as the deployment of search and rescue teams. There have been no major injuries reported as a result of the Forada tornado.

Due to the issues in Minnesota, over 20,000 customers remain without power in several areas surrounding Minneapolis as of Monday evening, electric provider Xcel Energy reports.

Monday's high wind gusts in the area took place in Appleton, Minnesota (90 mph), Big Stone City, South Dakota (70 mph), Brandon, South Dakota (70 mph) and Tyndall, South Dakota (70 mph).

However, a more isolated severe threat may expand southward into Kansas and Missouri, and eastward toward the Mississippi River.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will once again be threatened by severe weather after intense storms rolled through overnight. Other cities such as Omaha, Nebraska, Aberdeen, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota will also be within the threat area.

Much like on Sunday, all facets of severe weather will be possible into Monday night. However, the risk for tornadoes will be higher on the holiday, and a few strong and long-track tornadoes may be possible. People in the threat area will want to monitor the latest watches and warnings in the event of intense and damaging storms. The risk of violent storms and tornadoes will continue well after dark in some cases.

Farther north and east near cities such as Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota, storms may form into a more solid line, increasing the threat of damaging wind gusts. AccuWeather Local StormMax wind gusts to near 100 mph can occur in some of the stronger storms lieu of tornadoes.

Minor to moderate flooding continued along portions of the Red River of the North as well. Waters have remained above flood stage for many weeks following late-winter and early-spring storms with melting snow and heavy rain.

"With storms centered closer to the Red River into Monday night, flooding will be a concern once again. With torrential rainfall on top of already saturated ground, these storms will only worsen the ongoing flood situation," Geiger explained.

Farther south, heavy rainfall may be more needed. Much of the central Plains remains in various stages of drought. Ninety-four percent of Nebraska, and 59 percent of South Dakota, are under at least a moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But heading into Tuesday, some of these drought-stricken areas may receive too much of a good thing.

The severe threat on Tuesday will shift south and east, likely impacting an area stretching from the Texas High Plains to eastern Wisconsin. The southern half of this area, however, may see the highest concentration of severe storms.

High winds will be possible from these storms, along with hail. Much like previous days, the most intense storms may contain hail greater than two inches in diameter. Hail of this size can crack windows and windshields, dent vehicles and damage roofs.

Isolated tornadoes will also be possible, however, the threat for strong, long-track tornadoes will be lower than on Monday. "Tuesday's storms will generally be farther away from the strong jet stream and storm system moving along it. This will tend to reduce the overall tornado risk," Geiger explained.

In any case, residents in cities such as Amarillo, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin will want to stay aware of the possible hazardous weather on Tuesday.

In addition to the severe thunderstorms, flooding will be a hazard across portions of the central Plains as multiple rounds of rain and storms impact the same locations. While these storms will not be as large and intense as those on Monday, Mother Nature has shown in the past that such a large outbreak is not needed to pose a risk to lives and property. Rainfall totals can quickly rise over the span of several hours as storms move through, in a process known as "training."

The highest risk of flooding is likely to come on Tuesday, however additional storms that are expected to fire on Wednesday may cause additional problems as they continue to erupt over part of the same area hit on Tuesday. With the ground already saturated and a large volume of water already in rivers and streams, it will take much less rain to cause the same flooding impacts.

The threat of severe weather will shift farther to the east over the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes later Wednesday and part of the Northeast on Thursday, where they will help snap a building heat wave with cooler and less humid air that follows.

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