More Tornadoes Are Likely in the Great Plains


One day after tornadoes tore through parts of Nebraska and Iowa, leveling dozens of homes, severe thunderstorms and high winds were expected across the central and southern Great Plains on Saturday.

Tornadoes and large hail were likely in northern Texas, Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas, forecasters said.

A rare “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch was issued on Saturday afternoon for western Oklahoma and parts of northern Texas.

Watches issued with this language mean forecasters have confidence that a few tornadoes will form and that some could be relatively intense and track a long distance. Watches are issued to remind the public to be aware that tornadoes could form and to be mindful of warnings which mean to take cover.

A notice issued by the Weather Service office in Norman, Okla., on Saturday warned residents that “dangerous supercell thunderstorms” were possible that could produce strong tornadoes.

“Many public events are occurring today and with people out of the office/school, there is a high concern in our office of people out on the roads or away from shelters,” it said.

The notice also urged residents to remain near shelters, saying that the “environment resembles that of previous historic tornadic outbreaks.”

The potential for tornadoes was expected to increase throughout the afternoon and early evening, the National Weather Service said.

As rich moisture surged northwestward, the outlook was “already very unstable,” said Ryan Jewell, a forecaster at the Weather Prediction Center of the Weather Service.

“It’s a fairly complicated scenario today because of the sheer number of storms,” he said. “They start interacting and there’s several different pockets of potential.”

In Norman, a city of about 130,000 people that is 20 miles south of Oklahoma City, the air was thick with moisture on Saturday morning as flag lines knocked against their poles.

That moisture was on a northwestward path, bringing with it the potential for an evolving system that could change in character as the day continues.

Excessive rainfall was likely in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and parts of Missouri, creating conditions for potentially damaging flash flooding.

By early Saturday afternoon, nearly 5 million people were under a tornado watch.

“We could really have quite a range of weather phenomena,” Mr. Jewell said. Hail over two inches in diameter and strong winds, some greater than 70 miles per hour, were expected.

The far-reaching storm system comes on the heels of tornadoes on Friday that struck several areas of Nebraska and Iowa, where at least nine people were injured as winds battered the region. Dozens of homes were razed, and an industrial building collapsed.

Phil Enke, an elder at Harvest Alliance Church in Minden, Iowa, said that the place of worship was leveled in Friday’s storms. Mr. Enke, 65, walked over splintered wood and debris on Saturday afternoon, looking for documents and photographs that he could salvage.

“We were just trying to get stuff that can’t be replaced,” Mr. Enke said.

“It’s a hassle and a mess, but you just have to pick up the pieces and move on,” he added.

The Weather Service said that it had received more than 100 reports of tornadoes in at least five states in the Great Plains on Friday.





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