Severe Weather and Tornadoes Threaten Plains
- May 20, 2019
It’s a terrifying time for those living in the Plains.
The Storm Prediction Center issued just the second watch in their history where every category of watch probabilities are greater than 95%.
PDS Tornado Watch # 199 is coming for Oklahoma. This is only the second watch in SPC history where every category of watch probabilities (torn, wind, hail) are at greater than 95%.
The only other watch like this was issued for Alabama on 27 April 2011. pic.twitter.com/BgpjKBMffL
— NWS SPC (@NWSSPC) May 20, 2019
Before we get into what’s going on now from our meteorologists and what we’re seeing on our weather map, we need to stress the importance of tornado safety.
If you are under a tornado watch or a tornado warning you must take action immediately.
Earth Networks Meteorologist, Steve Prinzivalli, advises the following: “If there is a tornado warning, residents of the Southern Plains should be prepared to quickly move to a safe shelter. These include a tornado-designated building, basement, or interior room on the lowest floor away from windows. Get get under something sturdy such as a table or workbench.”
If you are under a tornado watch that means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms by watching the sky and staying tuned to a reliable weather information source (like NOAA Weather Radio).
If you are under a tornado warning that means a tornado has already been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately. If you have tornado safety kit take it with you.
Here are some sheltering guidelines from the National Weather Service to keep you safe.
Know where to go when a Tornado warning is issued for your area. Under an overpass is literally “the worst” place to be. Get inside a storm shelter or well-constructed structure and find the lowest central location you can to take shelter. pic.twitter.com/7txDIVCwJt
— National Weather Service (@NWS) May 20, 2019
Current Storm Situation
According to the National Weather Service a potent spring storm system is expected to produce an outbreak of severe weather in parts of the Plains today. Very large hail, damaging winds, flash flooding, and large/violent tornadoes are possible. The area most likely to experience significant tornadoes stretches from the Texas Hill County through Central Oklahoma.
We captured the current severe weather conditions over the area with the help of Sferic Maps. The video below highlights what’s going on.
Our Total Lightning Network is tracking a few strong storm cells as they move across the region. We’ve generated multiple Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts, especially in the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma areas.
There are reports of tornadoes and rotating clouds. Tornado watches and warnings are in effect for much of the area until 10 pm local time this evening.
Why Is This Happening?
According to Earth Networks Sr. Meteorologist, James West, today’s developing tornado outbreak is the perfect mix of conditions for rapid developing, fast-moving, and intense tornadoes.
“One key element is a flux of warm and soupy air moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico, spreading into the Texas Panhandle and into Oklahoma,” explains James.
“Another is a strong storm system is moving out of the Rockies. This storm is extending a west-east oriented warm from across the southern Plains. This system will have upper-level energy moving out of the southern Rockies.”
A Perfect Combination
“This combination along with a dryline, or a line separating the humid, soupy air over the southern Plains from the drier air moving out Mexico Plateau, will move out of New Mexico and into the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma.”
On top of that, there is also a great amount of wind shear according to Meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli. “There is a significant amount of wind shear, or a change of wind speed and or direction, in the atmosphere to support rotating storms and tornadoes.”
James continues: “This complex mixture could produce the ideal conditions for rapidly developing thunderstorms moving into a highly sheared environment needed to spin up monster tornadoes.”
As we write this post. tornado warnings have been popping up throughout Texas and Oklahoma. We recommend following the NWS Tornado Twitter account for real-time updates.
Here’s one of the many warnings:
Tornado Warning including El Reno OK, Kingfisher OK, Okarche OK until 3:45 PM CDT pic.twitter.com/WU2YfMSU0H
— NWS Tornado (@NWStornado) May 20, 2019
This Morning’s Storms
Earlier this morning the storms were already starting. Earth Networks Meteorologist Alexa Maines caught these storms and accompanying Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts around 10am ET on May 20, 2019.
Earth Networks Meteorologist Chad Merrill then shared this line of storms a few hours later as they made their way across the state.
In the image above (taken from Sferic Maps) you can also see local storm reports for severe weather, rain, and wind.
Our Resident Storm Chaser
Our meteorologist, Mark Ellinwood, is currently storm chasing out in Texas.
Newer area of concern off to our northeast. Getting away from us… will probably drop to the more southern target very soon. pic.twitter.com/lA51PzReVG
— Mark Ellinwood (@markellinwood) May 20, 2019
If we get more updates from Mark we will share them on this blog post.
In the meantime stay informed, stay alert, and stay safe.