Sunday, June 4, 2023

Dangerous storms, tornadoes can target Midwest, South

by Seth Borenstein

A continuing series of potentially severe storms with deadly tornadoes is forecast for the next few weeks, especially through Friday, across parts of the US Midwest and South, meteorologists said.

An unusual weather pattern has begun over the past week that triggered the devastating tornadoes that affected Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and meteorologists fear this Friday will be one of the worst, with more to come Is. The National Weather Service said 16.8 million people live in the highest-risk area, and more than 66 million people overall should remain on alert Friday.

“It’s pretty clear someone is going to take it on the nose Friday,” said Northern Illinois meteorology professor and tornado expert and chaser Victor Gencini. “It’s just a matter of where and when.”

The weather service is warning a large area of ​​the country – Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, some of the West Parts including Virginia, Georgia and Kansas – to be on watch for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and other damaging winds. Large cities in the highest-risk area include Memphis, St. Louis, Des Moines and Little Rock.

Gencini fears Friday’s attack will be fatal.

The storms are expected to begin Friday afternoon and last overnight, which is especially dangerous because people may not see them coming and often won’t seek shelter, Weather Service Storm Prediction Center Warning Coordination Meteorologist Matt Elliott said Wednesday. Said.

“Storms will move very quickly,” Elliott said. “So you won’t have much time to react to the warnings either. So it’s time to start preparing.”

Although all the ingredients for dangerous storms are present, it’s possible they may not combine enough to reduce the danger meteorologists are warning about, Elliott and others said.

Another batch of severe storms, powered by “firehose” of unstable waves in the atmosphere that continue to blow in from the cold west and mix with moist air from the east, are expected next Tuesday and a few days after that, Walker Ashley said. may come in days. Another meteorology professor in northern Illinois and Gencini’s storm-chasing partner.

“You could have seen these things days before,” Ashley said. They would be “consecutive punches, one, two, three, four”.

Elliott said the weather service is already predicting another batch of intense thunderstorms next Tuesday in the same general area as Friday.

Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said at least the first 10 days of April would be bad.

The current persistent pattern of storm components is reminiscent of an April 2011 tornado strike that killed 363 people across six states, with Alabama being hardest hit. The weather service said it was the largest, deadliest and most destructive tornado in US history.

Elliott said, even before Friday, “it has been the most active it has been in many years starting around last November, with a large number of winter storms this year.” The deadly tornadoes that hit Rolling Fork were part of that pattern.

Buckingham and other meteorologists said that the current conditions occur only once every few years to create the potential for a train of supercells, which give rise to the worst tornadoes and damaging hail.

At its center is a fast-moving rollercoaster-like jet stream, a flowing river of air that moves weather systems, such as hurricanes, from west to east. To the west of the jet stream is extremely cold air and to the east, off Florida and the Caribbean, is a very warm and dry high-pressure system.

Buckingham said, “When you combine the two it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.” “The ingredients are here. They are headed for the extreme end of things.

Add to this that the Gulf of Mexico, which provides moisture, heat and energy for storms, is about 2 to 5 degrees (1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius) warmer than average or higher, meteorologists said – “is on fire,” Ashley kept it.

“The extra heat and humidity is what really fuels these thunderstorms,” ​​Buckingham said.

The worst of the weather will be “underneath the collision of warm and cold air,” a battleground, Gencini said. The forecast for Friday afternoon in Storm Lake, Iowa, is about 67 degrees (19 °C), but just 140 miles (225 kilometers) to the northwest, it is forecast to be barely above freezing in Brookings, South Dakota.

“The greater the temperature fluctuations, the stronger the storm system,” Gencini said.

Meteorologists said winds blowing in opposite directions to the west and east of the jet stream battlefield compound the problem.

Ashley said the current conditions are mostly random weather variability, though he added that a warming Gulf of Mexico and human-caused climate change may have made a small contribution.

Ashley said, “These incidents are always happening.” “The question is, are we turning the knob a little bit by letting in more moisture, more heat, more volatility?”

___ Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at ___ Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter @borenbears ___ Associated Press climate and environment coverage is supported by several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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