UPDATE: At 2 p.m., the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said in a statement that a tornado watch would likely be issued for portions of south-central Kansas sometime before 4 p.m.
ORIGINAL STORY: Come early afternoon Thursday, south-central Kansas is likely to be in the middle of some potentially severe storms.
According to the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, most of the south-central part of the state is included in a high-risk area for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
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National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Ketcham said he expects storms to roll into the Wichita-area as early as 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“It’s looking like a volatile day in south-central Kansas,” Ketcham said. “We’re looking at the potential for baseball-sized hail and long-track tornadoes. Anywhere from Butler County to the west, even up to Great Bend, is right in that high-risk area.”
Ketcham said that he expects the most active time for the weather system in the Wichita area to be between 3 and 10 p.m. Winds could reach speeds of 70 miles per hour or more in south-central Kansas, according to the weather service.
“Definitely after 4 p.m., Wichita will be in the middle of the event,” Ketcham said. “We’re expecting some supercell storms to develop southwest of Wichita beginning early this afternoon.”
Forecasters are encouraging residents in the path of the storm system to prepare for potentially dangerous conditions, Ketcham said.
The NOAA’s prediction model estimates that more than 920,000 people in south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma are in the high-risk area.
In west-central Kansas, Barton County authorities said more than a dozen homes were destroyed or heavily damaged by a tornado on Tuesday, including nine in Pawnee Rock, which is about 18 miles southwest of Great Bend.
The National Weather Service rated the tornado as an EF-3, with peak winds of 165 mph. It was on the ground for 27 miles, according to reports.