Severe weather threat elevates for Wichita and much of Kansas

Near Bennington, north of Salina (May 28, 2013)
Near Bennington, north of Salina (May 28, 2013)

The heart of Tornado Alley may see another round of violent weather over the next few days, weather officials said Tuesday.

Tornadoes are possible Wednesday and Thursday for large portions of Kansas and Oklahoma, forecasters say.

Wednesday is “potentially a ‘high risk’ day, including Wichita,” said Mike Smith, a senior vice president for AccuWeather, in an e-mail response to questions.

National Weather Service meteorologists, meanwhile, are more worried about Thursday’s violent weather threat, which could also affect the Wichita metropolitan area.

“By hearing what they’re saying out there” in the forecast center, “Thursday seems to be one that is of particular note to them,” said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the Wichita branch of the weather service.

None of this should be surprising to residents of Tornado Alley, though.

“We’re in the prime severe weather season – the last two weeks of May, the first two weeks of June,” Hayes said. “The atmosphere doesn’t really scour itself out and the potential is there just about every day.”

The Storm Prediction Center elevated the severe weather threat for Wednesday to a moderate risk from southern Nebraska through Kansas into western Oklahoma. The moderate zone in Kansas stretches from Wichita west to Dodge City.

“Large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes – possibly strong – may accompany supercells that develop during the day,” an SPC outlook for Wednesday stated.

Storm chasers fanned out across Kansas on Tuesday in anticipation of more tornadoes and are watching Wednesday and Thursday as well.

How long a cap on the atmosphere inhibits supercell development will have much to say about where severe weather develops in central Kansas on Wednesday, weather researcher Jon Davies said. And what happens Wednesday will shape the violent weather threat for Thursday.

“Definitely keep an eye on Thursday” in the Wichita area, Davies said. Local forecasters are anticipating a “high risk” for severe weather in Kansas on Thursday, Hayes said.

Residents of the region seem particularly anxious about the threat for tornadoes this week, he said.

“Especially in light of what happened in Oklahoma City and Moore” earlier this month, Hayes said. “They’re afraid a similar situation could occur.”

The best response to the situation is to have a plan in place and be prepared to act if the situation calls for it, he said.

“Us Kansans have gone through it for several years,” Hayes said. “We know what to do.”

Related stories from Wichita Eagle