More Than 5 Million Under Tornado Watches as Storms Threaten Great Plains

Storms began to move through parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Monday afternoon as millions of people in the region braced for a rare severe weather threat, according to the Storm Prediction Center, which warned of multiple strong tornadoes and large and destructive hail.

More than five million people across parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas are under tornado watches until 11 p.m. local time. The Weather Service issued a string of tornado warnings late Monday afternoon.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service said late Monday afternoon on social media of the tornado threat in Oklahoma.

Kelly Butler, a meteorologist in the Wichita office of the National Weather Service, said on Sunday, “The biggest area of concern is definitely Oklahoma and portions of south-central Kansas.

The Storm Prediction Center, which is part of the Weather Service, predicted its highest risk level for the first time since March 31, 2023. On that day, 131 tornadoes formed across 11 states from the Midwest to the South.

The last high-risk level for Oklahoma was May 20, 2019, when 35 tornadoes spawned across five states, mainly in the Plains.

Here’s what to know about the storms:

  • There is a chance for “strong to potentially long-track tornadoes, including large to giant hail, baseball-and softball-size,” according to Ms. Butler.

  • Storms should begin to form in Kansas from early to midafternoon.

  • Later in the day, storms will begin in Western Oklahoma and push east well into the evening and overnight.

  • There is some possibility of tornadoes, although less than in the high-risk area, in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas. Forecasters in Oklahoma City warned that any storm that forms could produce a dangerous tornado.

Forecasters raised the risk level Monday morning as the conditions across the Plains evolved, increasing their confidence that multiple significant tornadoes along potentially long paths will occur.

“Anybody in the affected areas should have a safety plan,” Ms. Butler said.

The Weather Service described the environment in southern Kansas and into Oklahoma as being “similar to some past higher-end, and even historic, severe weather and tornado events.”

A possible flood risk could also occur, as heavy rain increases over parts of eastern Kansas and Nebraska, as well as western Iowa and Missouri as a front moves out of the Rockies, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The Weather Prediction Center warned of a slight risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Central Plains and Middle Mississippi Valley from Monday into Tuesday morning. The heavy rain could produce flash flooding in urban areas, roads, small streams and low-lying areas.

The severe weather risk comes a week after more than two dozen tornadoes were reported and at least five people were killed in Oklahoma and Iowa, including an infant, the authorities said.

The current threat will not end Monday. More storms are forecast for the next couple of days, primarily on Wednesday, from Texas to Ohio.

Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.

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