Severe weather season to kick off across central US

Jessica Storm
AccuWeather Meteorologist

AccuWeather forecasters say an expansive area of explosive severe weather will develop in the southern and midwestern regions of the United States this weekend as the severe weather season begins with a bang.

Severe weather can occur any month of the year, but the peak in activity usually happens during the months of March, April and May. The potent storms later this week and weekend are expected to ignite thanks to a clash of cold air and unseasonable warmth in the middle of the country.

The first severe weather threat of the season is expected across the central U.S. this weekend.

Tuesday kicked off the beginning of meteorological spring and the gradual return of higher temperature averages. However, temperatures are forecast to rise even higher than usual, about 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across much of the Midwest and South Saturday.

Kansas City, Missouri, for example, which usually hits the lower 50s in early March, is forecast to have temperatures rising around 70 instead this weekend. Dallas, which typically has highs in the mid-60s, could reach 80 F Saturday.

"A widespread storm will be ejected into the Plains, and a clash of brisk, Arctic air with warmer air from the South will create an environment ripe for severe weather this weekend," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyssa Smithmyer.

Though the exact area of severe weather is still subject to a fluctuating storm track, meteorologists are highlighting areas from eastern Nebraska and Iowa to eastern Oklahoma and north-central Texas as locations at risk for severe thunderstorms Saturday. These storms can bring gusty winds and torrential rain to major cities like Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"By Sunday afternoon, a trailing cold front across the South Central states will provide a substantial swath of moisture," explained Smithmyer. This front could draw significant moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico, which, in addition to building warmth, is a key ingredient in fueling severe weather thunderstorms.

Forecasters predict Sunday will likely feature an even more widespread risk area for severe storms, including from Texas and Oklahoma to the western Tennessee Valley. Dallas, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, could all be under fire from severe weather to end the weekend.

As the front crosses these areas, temperatures are expected to drop closer to average, with Kansas City in the lower 50s Sunday and Dallas around 60 F by Monday.

Elsewhere this weekend, the Great Lakes and Northeast can anticipate weather impacts in the form of snow and ice. And while severe storms are expected to end by Monday, heavy rain is anticipated to continue into early next week in places that could do without it.

"Enhanced rainfall will spread from Dallas to Chicago overnight Sunday before shifting farther east into early next week," said Smithmyer.

Many areas of the Midwest have already had plenty of precipitation so far this year, and residents should prepare for even more repeated downpours next week. Reduced visibility from heavy rain and floodwaters on roads could cause travel delays. The rainfall can cause a new surge of water along some of the rivers in the region. While major flooding is not expected to occur, water levels were already at moderate flood stage along portions of the Ohio and minor flood stage along portions of the Mississippi from prior rainfall and runoff in February.

Places such as St. Louis were doused with plenty of rainfall during the month of February. The city received 160% of its normal monthly precipitation with 3.56 inches. For the month of March, St. Louis typically receives 3.50 inches of rain, according to Smithmyer.

Depending on the track of the storm, rain from severe storms this weekend and excessive rain next week may even total nearly a third of St. Louis' average March rainfall in a short period of time. Other major cities that can expect intense rain include Little Rock, Arkansas; Nashville; and Lexington, Kentucky.

Forecasters say there could be a short period of dry weather after this heavy rain moves through, but those in the central U.S. shouldn't get too comfortable with quiet weather because the severe season is just getting started.