Severe weather season started slowly for Kansas City and our surrounding towns. So far this spring, storm systems are strengthening closer to the Mississippi River and not over the central and southern plains. That’s kept a lid on our hail, wind and tornado threat.
I don’t hear anyone complaining considering we are all, in one way or another, dealing with COVID-19. But Tuesday it appears parts of eastern Kansas and western Missouri will get its first taste of spring severe weather. As of Monday afternoon, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) placed parts of our area in either a “Marginal” (green) or “Slight” (yellow) risk for severe weather Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Northwest of KC, the risk is even lower, but farther south, closer to the Kansas/Oklahoma border, there is a better chance for severe thunderstorms to develop. An enhanced risk of severe weather exists over parts of southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas.
Slight risk areas usually include scattered reports of severe weather, but enhanced risk areas typically can see numerous reports of severe weather. Still any storm that develops closer to Kansas City between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. could be strong and could contain either damaging wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, hail stones bigger than quarters or a rogue tornado warning.
Let’s drill down a little and take a closer look at the hail and tornado threat for Tuesday. Afternoon surface temperatures in the 70s and much cooler air at about 10,000 feet will help to get the air rising rapidly. This will lead to strong updrafts that help hailstones form. Add to that, southeast winds at the surface that veer and increase out of the west-northwest and some of these could start turning. This means significant hail, larger than egg size is possible.
It could happen anywhere in the marginal or slight risk area. However, some high-resolution data suggests the best chance for large hail will be just southeast of Kansas City. Check out the map below and notice how the reddish-orange contour is over Bates County near Butler, Missouri.
Remember the above map is just one of many pieces of data we look at, so large hail could form a little farther north, closer to Kansas City, or even farther east, closer to Lake of the Ozarks. Either way a wide region of the central and southern plains stands a chance to see significant hail on Tuesday. Here’s a wider look at the hail threat.
You could say any area In the brownish-to-reddish contours has a chance to see severe hail. That’s because these areas are closer to the cold front. It’s where the air gets colder the higher you go in the atmosphere and where the wind is changing with height.
Earlier in this blog we said colder air and changing winds could make a thunderstorm cell rotate. If we plot areas that have the most potential for rotation, we can see where there exists not only a hail and wind threat but a small threat for a tornado to spin up.
So looking at the map above again, you can see the overall rotation is small but still an isolated rotating thunderstorm could spell big trouble if a tornado forms. Yes, the threat is low, but as one of my meteorology professors repeatedly told me, “never say never and always when you’re talking about the weather.” That means we must keep an eye on these storms late Tuesday afternoon.
Severe weather season has started slowly. Let’s hope it stays that way tomorrow.