A round of destructive weather is expected to strike an area from Illinois to Texas next week, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center.
Damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes may develop across the region on May 19 and May 20, said the storm center in Norman, Oklahoma. A storm that tore through Texas yesterday spawned 10 tornadoes that left at least six people dead, seven missing and 35 injured, according to the Associated Press.
The new system may start with severe thunderstorms across parts of South Dakota and Nebraska in two days, said Bill Bunting, chief of operations at the storm center.
“Sunday and Monday, it really becomes more widespread,” Bunting said by telephone. “Strong tornadoes are not out of the question Sunday and Monday.”
At least one of yesterday’s tornadoes is believed to have been an EF-4, the second-strongest on the Enhanced Fujita scale, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas.
Tornadoes over the weekend may be EF-2 or stronger, Bunting said. An EF-2 tornado can produce three-second gusts of at least 111 miles (179 kilometers) per hour, the storm center said.
A severe thunderstorm watch was issued today for parts of Nebraska and Kansas. Winds of 70 miles per hour and 2-inch (5-centimeter) hail are possible.
These storms and yesterday’s tornadoes are unrelated to the impending weekend system, Bunting said.
“Yesterday was a reminder that when the right conditions come together at the right time, the atmosphere is capable of tremendous volatility,” he said.
About 11.2 million people live in the potential path of the May 19 storms, an area that includes Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska. On May 20, the threat zone expands to include Fort Worth and St. Louis.
While the storm center’s forecast looks ahead only to May 20, Jack Boston, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania, said he expects severe weather in the central U.S. through the week.
“We are going into a pattern that is more favorable for severe weather,” Boston said. “Yesterday was the first sign of the change that is taking place.”
Boston said this spring hasn’t had as much severe weather as past years because warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico has been prevented from spreading into the Great Plains.
Severe thunderstorms and damaging winds next week may reach all the way to Chicago and Milwaukee, he said, adding that the weather is more likely to include thunderstorms and damaging winds than a major outbreak of tornadoes.
Bunting said if the storms do continue through the week, each day the area affected will move farther to the east, into the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.