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Forecasters issue rare 'high risk' warning for severe weather ahead of expected tornadoes in central US

Multiple long-track and powerful tornadoes are expected in the Central U.S.
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Posted at 11:38 AM, May 06, 2024

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center is warning residents of central and western Oklahoma and southern Kansas of severe weather that could produce long-track tornadoes and softball-size hail on Monday.

The Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a high risk of severe weather in the region. Oklahoma City is among the cities facing the highest risk. Tulsa and Wichita also face a significant threat of tornadoes.

A high risk of severe weather is a level 5 on the Storm Prediction Center's 0-5 scale. Monday is the first time in over a year the Storm Prediction Center has issued a high risk warning for severe weather. The last time was March 31, 2023, when over 100 tornadoes were reported throughout the Mississippi River Valley.

"Numerous severe thunderstorms are expected to develop and move eastward Monday afternoon through Monday night across parts of the southern/central Plains. Multiple intense, long-track tornadoes, very large to giant hail, and severe/damaging winds all appear likely," the National Weather Service said early Monday.

Forecasters expressed some uncertainty early Monday morning about the forecast despite saying that the conditions were favorable for a "high-end" tornado environment. However, by the middle of Monday morning, forecasters gained more confidence in the projection for numerous and intense tornadoes.

Parts of Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas could also experience severe weather on Monday evening.

Tornado Alley has become more active in recent weeks. The National Weather Service said there were 38 tornadoes reported in Oklahoma in April, far above the average of 13 the state typically has. May is generally the busiest month for tornadoes in the state. Oklahoma has averaged 34 tornadoes every May from 1998 to 2022.

Kansas also saw a jolt in severe weather activity in April. The state had 53 tornado reports, which is much higher than the 12 it averages in April. Kansas averages 37 tornadoes every May. So far this month, the state has reported six twisters.