Tornadoes and Baseball-Sized Hail Threaten Texas, Oklahoma

May 20, 2019

A powerful spring storm is bearing down on Texas and Oklahoma, bringing tornadoes, flash floods and baseball-sized hail, the National Weather Service said.

The system could deliver as much as 5 inches of rain and hurricane-force winds as it sweeps through regions peppered with oil and natural gas facilities and wheat fields. Some areas could get up 15 inches, Patrick Burke, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center, said in an interview.

“It’s going to be a dangerous weather day out in the Great Plains,” Burke said. “It will be a really long day in Oklahoma City in particular.”

The Great Plains and Midwest have been battered by storms this year, leaving the Mississippi River at dangerously high levels, causing record floods in Nebraska and Iowa and delaying corn and soybean planting across the region. Oklahoma has been home to some of the nation’s worst tornadoes. In 2013, dozens were killed when an EF-5 twister, the strongest on the Enhanced Fujita scale, ripped through center of the state.

The oncoming system has spawned thunderstorm, flood and wind watches and warnings from New Mexico to Missouri. The worst of it is expected to hit north-central Texas and Oklahoma. The storm may spill into Kansas and Arkansas over the next 24 hours.

Afternoon heat will create more instability in the atmosphere, allowing the storm to strengthen. Some tornadoes could be long lasting, increasing their impact.

“This is a classic, severe-weather-outbreak pattern,” Burke said. “The most dangerous weather will come in the afternoon hours and continuing through the night time. We are very concerned.”

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