A dangerous severe weather outbreak is set to play out across the southern plains Monday afternoon and night. Forecasters expect violent tornadoes, widespread flash flooding, and a barrage of hail and wind.
Western and central Oklahoma and parts of the Texas Panhandle are expected to be hardest hit. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has warned of the potential for an outbreak of "long track and violent" tornadoes in this area, which includes Oklahoma City and Norman, Okla.
The Storm Prediction Center has placed these areas in a rare "High risk" zone for severe weather, which is "long-lived, very wide-spread, and particularly intense." Two million Americans are in this volatile zone. This is the first time the Storm Prediction Center has designated a "high risk" area since May 18, 2017.
"I have a feeling it's going to be one of those outbreaks that we never forget," Beth Carpenter a meteorologist for TDS Weather, a consulting and forensics company.
"This is the rare child of event that may take many lives," added Roger Edwards an atmospheric scientist, longtime storm chaser and weather history. "Pray I'm wrong."
The strength of the weather system predicted to trigger these storms is record-challenging both near the ground and at high altitudes.
Storms will come in multiple
The first batch pushed through early Monday morning, by several clusters of quickly-moving storms warned for three-inch-diameter hail and torrential rainfall .
“We're underway with watches and warnings in what will be a non-stop 24 to 36 hour onslaught of severe storms, flooding and tornadoes,” Rick Smith tweeted, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in Norman.
The atmosphere was predicted to turn even more conducive for storms in the afternoon and evening. It will be marketed by “extreme instability” according to the Storm Prediction Center, allowing for rapid supercell formation… [and] a significant threat to life and property. ”
A swarm of supercells, the most intense thunderstorms that spin and can spawn tornadoes, are forecast to just west and perhaps a little south of the Oklahoma / Texas border and well east of Interstate 27, tracking northeast at a breakneck 40 to 50 mph pace.
the nightmare scenario ',' tweeted Mike Smith a meteorologist with decades of experience monitoring Midwest storms
Additional rotating storms are predicted to form in southwest and south central Oklahoma south of Interstate 40 and west of Interstate 35 during this time. The Oklahoma City Metro area could be impacted by storms driving up the H.E. Bailey turnpike early Monday evening
In an environment like this, conditions can change and and storms will evolve rapidly. With the abnormally high amount of wind shear – rotational energy – present in the atmosphere, any storm that fires will start to rotate.
Tornado probabilities are "off the charts," tweeted Sam Lillo a PhD student in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma
The Storm Prediction Center wrote that the combination of instability and atmospheric spin will likely yield "multiple significant" tornadoes, rated EF2 or higher on the 0 to 5 scale for twister intensity.
In addition to tornadoes, very large hail exceeding the size of softballs and straight-line winds topping 80 mph are possible in the strongest supercells.
With every thunderstorm yielding a risk for eventual tornadoes, forecasters urged residents to stay abreast of up-to-date weather warnings as they are issued, especially true during the overnight, when are likely to continue.
As bad as the tornadoes might get, flooding could be equally dangerous. The Weather Prediction Center – the branch of the national weather service that deals with precipitation concerns – has also hoisted a high risk of excessive rainfall.
Its forecast warns that "numerous, potentially significant flash flood events are likely," the greatest odds in the Oklahoma City to Tulsa corridor northward. That 's where storms will merge and eventually stall Monday night, bringing with them a fire of moisture. [DefinitelyadualthreatdaywiththepotentialfortornadoesanddangerousfloodingPartsofourareaareathighriskofsevereweatherandhighriskoffloodingPleasestayalertandstaysafetodayandtonight! #okwx #txwx pic.twitter.com/weJbEFTIWb
– NWS Norman (@NWSNorman) May 20, 2019