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Millions across the central US are under threat of severe storms today

By Haley Brink, CNN meteorologist

A “potentially significant severe weather event” is forecast for portions of Oklahoma and Texas on Sunday, meteorologists warn.

A level 4 out of 5 “moderate” risk for severe storms has been issued across portions of Oklahoma by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) for Sunday. This risk covers more than 2 million people across the state, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

These severe storms will be capable of producing large hail, a few strong tornadoes (EF2 or stronger), and damaging winds Sunday afternoon and into the overnight hours. These storms are associated with a developing low pressure system and a front that extends from the Midwest through the southern Plains.

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“The potential exists for a couple of long track supercells to evolve and track east northeast through Oklahoma along and just south of the front,” said the SPC.

A supercell is simply a thunderstorm that has rotation associated with it. Nearly all supercells produce severe weather such as large hail, damaging winds, or even tornadoes.

The threat of tornadoes is highest Sunday across areas of Oklahoma and north Texas Sunday afternoon and into the evening hours. Tornadoes that occur at night are more than twice as likely to be deadly as those during the day.

“Interstate 35 from Dallas to Oklahoma City will be especially busy Sunday due to the ‘Red River Rivalry game’ between Texas and Oklahoma that took place on Saturday,” CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said. “This means a lot of fans could be driving back home this afternoon and evening — peak timing for the storms.”

Over 20 million people at risk

Oklahoma is not the only area that is at risk of severe storms Sunday. The severe storm threat stretches from central Missouri through the heart of Texas.

A level 3 “enhanced” risk surrounds the moderate risk and includes the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, and Fort Smith, Arkansas.

A level 2 “slight” risk includes Springfield, Missouri; Waco, Texas; and Wichita Falls, Texas. In total, more than 20 million people are at risk for severe storms Sunday.

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These storms are being fueled by a clashing of the seasons. Ahead of the system, well above average temperatures are in places across the central United States, and moisture is also streaming north from the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly a dozen daily high temperature records are possible ahead of this system as temperatures climb into the 90s on Sunday.

Behind this system, below average temperatures are settled in place across the western US. Just like in the spring, this clashing of air masses and excessive moisture become fuel for severe storms to form.

“Tornadoes and other severe weather are not limited to the spring time. Southern states from Texas to Georgia incur a secondary severe weather season in October and November,” Chinchar said.

By Monday, the severe storm risk shifts into the Midwest, threatening more than 40 million people, including Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

More severe storms later this week

The severe storm threat will return to portions of Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday as another system ejects into the central Plains.

A frontal system current entering the Pacific Northwest will dive south and east throughout the day Sunday, bringing the coldest air of the season.

This front will cross into the Rockies on Monday, bringing heavy snow for the many mountain ranges in the West. While the West did see some snow flurries on Friday and Saturday, this storm will bring the season’s first significant snowfall.

This system will strengthen on Tuesday as it tracks over the Rockies and into the central US, bringing another round of severe storms for the central US where all hazards are possible: damaging winds, hail and tornadoes.

Tuesday’s severe storm risk encompasses more than 15 million people from southwestern Minnesota to western Texas. The highest threat for these storms is forecast across portions of southern Nebraska, Kansas, and northern Oklahoma. The timing for these storms will be in the evening through the overnight hours.

“(The severe storm) risk will likely continue through the overnight hours, as the powerful system advances across the central Plains,” the SPC said.

Severe weather that occurs overnight can increase the potential for injuries and fatalities as people are often sleeping and not as plugged into weather warnings like they may be during the day.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN-Weather/Environment

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