Meteorologists are closely monitoring a large storm system that is forecast to move across the central and eastern United States this weekend. The storm has the potential to spawn damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes that could impact millions of residents.
Weather forecast models indicate that steady winds from the Gulf of Mexico will transport warm, humid air across parts of the South and East between Thursday and Friday. This moisture-laden air mass will provide ample fuel for torrential rainfall and intense storms.
As the warm sector moves east, colder air will begin wrapping around the backside of the strengthening storm. The clashing of these two air masses with drastically different temperatures and moisture levels will create instability in the atmosphere. This instability often sets the stage for severe weather.
The greatest risk for dangerous thunderstorms will exist from Louisiana through Tennessee on Saturday as the turbulent weather system tracks eastward. The Storm Prediction Center has highlighted areas along this path in an enhanced categorical risk for severe storms.
Meteorologists believe all modes of severe weather will be possible as environmental ingredients combine to produce prolific lightning, hail exceeding 2 inches in diameter, destructive straight-line winds over 75 miles per hour, and even the likelihood of strong tornadoes.
Residents across the South should ensure they have reliable access to weather alerts this weekend and make preparations in the event warnings are issued for their area.
Protective actions may become necessary, such as sheltering in a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building, away from windows. Securing loose outdoor furniture and other items that could become projectiles in high winds would also be prudent.
Meteorologists will fine-tune the severe storm forecasts as updated data from weather balloons, satellites, radar networks, and surface observations become available. Thunderstorm development and evolution depends heavily on small-scale variations in atmospheric moisture, temperatures and winds that are difficult to predict too far in advance.
However, confidence remains high that a significant multiday severe weather threat is on track this weekend.