A clash of two seasons brews as an early winter outburst meets record-breaking autumn heat, driving a severe and robust storm system across the south and creating the biggest tornado threat the United States has seen in more than five month.
A tornado watch is in effect Friday afternoon for nearly 12 million people in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and according to the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office in northeastern Texas, there were reports of a tornado and damage Friday afternoon.
“Multiple tornadoes are possible in extreme southeast Oklahoma and eastern Texas,” the Storm Prediction Center warned in its Friday weather forecast, adding “a strong tornado or two may occur from the late afternoon to early evening”.
The Storm Prediction Center highlighted an area of “moderate risk” — a level 4 of 5 — of severe thunderstorms on Friday for eastern Texas, southeast Oklahoma, southwest Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area remains under heightened risk — a Level 3 of 4 — for Friday.
“The area most susceptible to strong tornadoes [EF2 or higher] will be from extreme southeast Oklahoma south into east Texas east of the I-35 corridor,” the prediction center said.
The tornado watch is in effect until 8 p.m. local time and includes north-central and northeast Texas, eastern and southern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. It includes Dallas, Waco and Tyler in Texas, Tulsa in Oklahoma, and Fort Smith and Fayetteville in Arkansas.
In addition to intense tornadoes, scattered large to very large hailstones, larger than the size of a golf ball (2 inches in diameter), are also possible, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The main threat will shift from tornadoes Friday afternoon and evening to damaging winds that will set in overnight as thunderstorms line up and spread through Arkansas and Louisiana.
As the storms push eastward, a widespread and damaging large wind event is expected later Friday evening in parts of the Ark-La-Tex region. This is why the prediction center has updated the threat level for Friday.
“Storms will persist late into the night moving through much of Louisiana and Arkansas, and into western Mississippi, the forecast center added.
This storm system will move quickly from west to east, minimizing the chance of flash flooding in the Ark-La-Tex area. Farther north, rainfall of 1 to 4 inches is expected through Saturday over a wide area from Kansas to Wisconsin.
Precipitation is a must in this region as the recent drought has caused the Mississippi River to reach record highs, impacting shipping and the supply chain.
A total of 42 million people from Texas to Wisconsin are at risk of severe storms on Friday. Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Kansas City and Wichita are also included in risk areas.
The last time the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area was at increased risk or more was May 24.
While tornadoes in the United States can occur any month of the year, they are more common in the spring thanks to the clash of cold and warm air as the seasons change. The same melting of temperatures also occurs in the fall, which is why you will often see a secondary “severe season” later in the year.
“You can see that while the spring months are our busiest time climatologically, there is a secondary increase in tornado activity in November,” the National Weather Service of New Orleans said.
Texas sees the most tornadoes (7) in November on average, followed by Alabama (6), Louisiana (5) and Mississippi (5).
The time of day a tornado occurs makes a big difference in the fatality rate. Night tornadoes are more dangerous because many people are sleeping and unaware that they need to seek a safe place. Although the greatest tornado threat for this particular event exists during the day, there is always the possibility of a few rotating storms during the evening hours.
Make sure you have your weather safety plan ready to go before bad weather strikes. Know where you will go in case of bad weather and make sure flashlights are working and cell phones are fully charged in case you lose power.
“One of the most important features of your weather safety plans is having a reliable way to receive severe weather warnings,” the New Orleans Weather Service said.
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