After a relatively quiet start to the 2014 tornado season, a tornado spotted in Mississippi Thursday and tornado watches posted Friday evening for eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia are offering just a foretaste of the severe weather expected to wallop much of the central United States this weekend and into early next week, according to meteorologists.
Forecasters said Friday that a strong storm forming in the south central US this weekend could bring the worst severe weather of the season. While the tornado spotted in Mississippi, triggered by a weaker storm system, initially sparked concerns in the Deep South, residents of southern Nebraska, central Kansas, parts of Oklahoma, and northwest Texas should be prepared this weekend to endure hail, high winds, and some tornadoes, Weather.com reported.
"We are going to get a lot of moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico, strong winds and heat," meteorologist Mike July, with the National Weather Service in Kansas City, told Reuters. "It all mixes a stew for storms to really work with."
"Large hail and damaging straight-line wind gusts will be the primary threats with the storms Saturday evening, but a few isolated supercell thunderstorms can produce a tornado," cautioned AccuWeather meteorologist Scott Breit.
Supercells, some of the most violent types of thunderstorms, typically contain “updrafts that rotate about a vertical axis,” known as a mesocyclone, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. “Once formed, a supercell may perpetuate itself for an appreciable length of time, even upon encountering an environment that is hostile to the development of new storms.”
The severe weather is expected to progress eastward into the Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley, and the Deep South on Sunday and Monday, according to the Weather Channel.
High wind advisories are also in place for large portions of the Southwest, according to Wunderground.com.
This weekend’s surge of severe weather could prove to be the worst of the season and may catch residents off guard, AccuWeather.com reported.
"A reason for extra concern this weekend is that tornadoes have been nearly non-existent so far and people tend to forget what they have learned from year to year," said Mike Smith, senior vice president of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions.
The 2014 tornado season thus far has been relatively quiet, and no tornado-related deaths have been recorded this year, The Weather Channel’s Tornado Central reports. In 2013, there were 55 tornado-related fatalities in Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Illinois, according to the National Weather Service. In 2011, 553 people were killed by tornadoes in the deadliest tornado season since 1936.
Tornado outbreaks often occur during a string of severe weather over the course of several days. The deadly EF5 tornado that struck Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013, severely damaging two elementary schools and killing two dozen people, occurred on the third and final day of such an outbreak.
Residents in tornado-prone areas are advised to review their tornado plans and pay close attention to rapid changes in the weather. Some signs that a tornado might be approaching include dark or green-colored skies; large, dark, low-flying clouds; large hail; and a loud roar resembling a freight train, according to the Centers for Disease Control.