Even as residents in central Kansas are recovering from a night of tornadoes earlier this week, another round of severe weather looms for the state on Thursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center is warning of the risk “for very large hail and a few tornadoes” in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma.
“Any tornadoes that develop (Thursday) will be on the strong end,” said Rich Putnam, senior storm warning meteorologist with AccuWeather’s Wichita branch. “These are looking like the potential is there for several tornadoes that could be long-tracked.”
The SPC has issued a moderate risk for severe weather that extends from southwest of Garden City east to Hutchinson and as far north as Rush and Ness counties in central Kansas.
Wichita, Hutchinson and Salina are included in an enhanced risk – which is less than a moderate risk – for severe weather Thursday afternoon and evening. Large hail and strong winds are also expected with the storms, which will develop as isolated supercells early in the afternoon.
As the evening progresses, the storms will move east and then merge into a squall line with heavy rain and strong winds, Putnam said. That will likely happen near or just east of Wichita before moving into eastern and southeastern Kansas.
‘It looks pretty volatile’
Jonathan Finch, a meteorologist in the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service, said forecasters will be monitoring an atmospheric boundary expected to set up by early Thursday afternoon.
Tornadoes will develop wherever that line sets up, he said. It’s just not clear yet how far north the warm front will get before the supercell thunderstorms start to form.
“It looks pretty volatile along that warm front” on Thursday, Finch said. “If it stays in Oklahoma, that’s where all the tornadoes will be.
“We don’t really know where that boundary is going to be (Thursday) afternoon.”
Winds could top 75 miles an hour with the storms, forecasters say, along with hail at least an inch in diameter.
“You only get a few setups a year that look like this, but not all the ones that look like this produce the big tornadoes,” Finch said.
31 tornadoes reported
Among the counties in the moderate risk zone for Thursday are Pawnee and Barton, where cleanup began Wednesday after severe weather rolled through the area Tuesday night.
The Storm Prediction Center listed reports of 31 tornadoes in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Wisconsin. One person died in Oklahoma and another in Wisconsin.
Eight tornadoes were reported across southwest and central Kansas, though some of those reports could turn out to be multiple views of the same tornado.
The National Weather Service rated the tornado in Pawnee and Barton counties as an EF-3, with peak winds of 165 miles an hour. It touched down at 7:59 p.m. three miles east of Larned in Pawnee County and then moved north-northeast into Barton County.
It was on the ground for 27 miles, grew to a width of 300 yards, and finally lifted two miles northwest of Hoisington.
Another tornado in Clark County earned an EF-1 rating from the weather service. It developed at 5:49 p.m. four miles southeast of Minneola in Clark County and was on the ground for less than three miles before lifting just before 6 p.m. It had maximum winds of 85 miles an hour and was 50 yards wide.