Instability will increase across the central and southern Plains on Saturday, leading to a potential severe weather outbreak.
A dip in the jet stream will dig from the northern Rockies late tonight to the central Plains by Saturday evening. The atmosphere will become increasingly unstable throughout the morning hours as strong southerly winds aloft in the atmosphere transport moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico.
These factors, in combination with an approaching cold front, will act to spark strong to potentially severe thunderstorms from Nebraska and western Iowa, south through Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.
Any of these thunderstorms will be capable of producing torrential downpours, damaging wind gusts in excess of 50 mph, and small hail. Cities in the path for these strong storms include Kansas City, Mo., Wichita, Kan., and Lubbock, Texas.
While damaging winds will be the main threat with any severe thunderstorms, Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and tornado expert Mike Smith notes that "there is a threat for a tornado or two on an Omaha-to-Dodge City axis in the late afternoon and early evening Saturday."
However, Smith also emphasized that the tornado threat is lower compared to last week's tornado outbreak, which spawned the wildest tornado on record near El Reno, Okla.
Severe weather parameters will be weaker farther north, but ample moisture surrounding a slow-moving center of low pressure will create thunderstorms with a high potential to produce heavy downpours and flash flooding. This threat will be widespread across the Dakotas and western Minnesota, including the cities of Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, S.D.
The severe thunderstorm threat will expand south and eastward in the evening hours, spreading into Lubbock, Texas, and Tulsa, Okla. Spotty, strong thunderstorms will also threaten the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, a region that has already witnessed devastating severe weather over the past few weeks.
More tranquil conditions are expected across this region on Sunday as high pressure builds in the wake of the exiting cold front.
Story by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Steve Travis.
Lightning photo image from Photos.com.