Severe storms possible across the Plains late Wednesday (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer heading down highway with thunderstorm in the distance.

A substantial severe weather outbreak is possible across several Great Plains states later Wednesday, from Texas to Missouri. This is the prime time of year for disruptive thunderstorm development in the nation’s heartland. Shippers and receivers, as well as carriers and their drivers, should expect minor delays in freight flow across the region.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 9 a.m. EDT; Severe thunderstorm risk zone

A warm front connected to a low-pressure system over Colorado will gradually move northward into the middle Mississippi Valley Wednesday. A warm, moist air mass will spread from much of Texas to southern Nebraska and the Kansas City, Missouri, area, with dew points ranging from the lower 60s to the lower 70s.

At the same time, a dry line will set up in the southern High Plains. A dry line is a boundary separating moist and dry air masses. It typically lies north-south across the central and southern Plains during the spring and early summer, separating moist air from the Gulf of Mexico (to the east) and dry desert air from the Southwestern states (to the west).

As surface heating takes place later Wednesday, the atmosphere will become unstable east of the dry line, from western Texas into the eastern Texas Panhandle and across much of the Red River Valley. This is where thunderstorms will develop.

In addition to the dry line and warm front, impulses of energy in the upper atmosphere will help trigger thunderstorms that could turn severe in many spots from late this afternoon into the nighttime in the highlighted religion on the map above. The National Weather Service (NWS) defines a thunderstorm as severe if it produces any of the following:

⦁ Winds of at least 58 mph.
⦁ Hail at least 1 inch in diameter.
⦁ A tornado.

Many of Wednesday’s storms will become supercells, which are thunderstorms that rotate and contain strong updrafts. Hailstones greater than 2 inches in diameter will be possible with supercells that develop intense cores, from western Oklahoma and the eastern Texas Panhandle southwestward into the Pecos River Valley.

The overall tornado risk is low, but not zero. There’s a 2% to 5% chance of a tornado developing within 25 miles of any location within the potential threat zone. However, straight-line winds may be severe enough to knock down trees and power lines in some areas.

Today’s supercells may have a tendency to be high-precipitation (HP) storms with torrential rainfall that could cause localized flash flooding. Significantly large hail will be the primary hazard with Wednesday’s supercells, with hail in some areas reaching golf ball size or larger.

Some of the cities at risk include, but are not limited to Fort Worth, San Angelo and Lubbock, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and possibly Lincoln, Nebraska. Drivers will likely be delayed at times on Interstates 10, 20, 35, 40 and 70.

Have a great day! Please stay healthy and be careful out there!