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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Severe weather outbreak expected Friday in the Midwest

Severe weather outbreak expected Friday in the Midwest

Severe weather outbreak: Map of US with two red circles one northern Midwest and one southern Midwest.
NOAA’s National Weather Service calls for a severe weather outbreak of intense and widespread severe thunderstorms Friday afternoon (March 31, 2023) and into the overnight hours. It also said to expect the most intense storms – capable of damaging gusts, a few tornadoes (some strong and long-tracked), and large hail – in the mid-Mississippi valley to the mid-South. Image via NOAA.

Another round of severe weather is targeting the central U.S., just a week after the last tornado outbreak. Experts expect severe weather from Iowa to Mississippi on Friday evening. Storms will bring the threat of significant tornadoes, damaging wind and very large hail to millions of people.

Two distinct regions face the greatest threat according to the Storm Prediction Center. Eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois are in the first Moderate risk area (level four out of five), where they can expect tornadoes and widespread damaging winds. The second moderate risk area is focused around the lower Ohio River Valley and northeastern Arkansas, where an additional chance for strong tornadoes is the primary hazard.

Forecasters also expect strong storms and tornadoes across a very wide range from central Iowa to northeastern Texas and northern Alabama. The forecast remains more uncertain for those regions.

Severe weather outbreak in the Midwest

The Storm Prediction center expect supercells to form mid-afternoon in central Iowa, close to the center of a very large low-pressure system over the Midwest. Supercells are rotating thunderstorms that produce all types of severe weather. The supercells in Iowa will initially produce large hail, possibly in excess of two inches. They may also produce tornadoes within a few minutes or hours of forming. Storms in this area may move as fast as 80 mph.

The supercells will gradually merge together through the evening and create a line of storms further east into Illinois. The primary hazard with this line of storms will be strong straight-line winds, although brief tornadoes may still be possible. The storms will likely make it to the Chicago area after sunset.

Severe weather outbreak in the mid-South

The second threat area is primarily focused around northeastern Arkansas. Although all the storms will be a part of the same storm system, the conditions in Arkansas will be much different than those in Iowa. Large supercells with flooding rains will develop in the afternoon. Due to strong wind shear in this area, the storms will be capable of producing significant and long-track tornadoes through sunset.

Snow, wind and fire

The deep low pressure over the Midwest will produce more than just severe weather. Forecasters expect very strong winds on the back end of the system. A combination of these winds and dry air will lead to enhanced fire weather conditions over the High Plains through Friday and Saturday. The system will likely also drop heavy snowfall over the Upper Midwest. Parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin will see one to two feet of snow through Saturday.

Seasonal severe weather

This severe weather is just one set of storms in a long string of severe weather across the central U.S., driven by deep troughs in the jet stream that commonly occur in March and April. A tornado outbreak one week ago produced multiple long-track tornadoes in Mississippi, including an EF-4 that killed 26 people.

More severe weather to come

Conditions for severe weather become more favorable throughout the spring. Warmer temperatures and higher moisture are key for severe-weather development. These components will increase through April and May. In fact, another severe weather event looks likely on Tuesday, according to a long-range forecast by the Storm Prediction Center. Climatology shows that this kind of frequency from severe weather is normal for March and April and is expected to peak in mid-May.

Map of the US with shades of orange showing darkest color over Oklahoma but extending all the way east.
Climatology of where severe weather is most likely in mid-May, per the Storm Prediction Center. Image via NOAA.

Bottom line: A severe weather outbreak will hit a large swath of the central United States on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Read more: Tornado outbreak kills 26 in Mississippi

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