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Multiple-day severe weather threat to begin Saturday over central US

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The threat of severe weather will return to the south-central United States this weekend.

Multiple rounds of thunderstorms will occur and progress eastward from Saturday to Monday.

The first storms are likely to erupt and become severe over parts of the High Plains on Saturday afternoon.

"Storms may erupt as far west and north as the Denver Metro area and foothills of the Colorado Rockies to the Oklahoma and northern Texas panhandles, including western Kansas on Saturday," according to AccuWeather Assistant Director of Storm Warning Services Andrew Gagnon.

"The severe storm threat on Saturday will mainly be limited to hail and damaging wind gusts, as the atmosphere in the region will not be terribly moist," Gagnon said.

As the thunderstorm threat migrates eastward later in the weekend and into early next week, the full spectrum of severe weather will come into play.

The storms on Sunday and Monday will bring the potential for frequent lightning strikes, flash flooding and a few isolated tornadoes, along with the ongoing risks of large hail and damaging wind gusts.

On Sunday, the main threat for severe weather will extend from central Kansas to west-central Oklahoma and west-central Texas. The threat on Sunday and includes the cities of Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City and San Angelo, Texas.

On Monday, severe storms could fire near Kansas City, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.

There are a number of factors that may determine the nature of the severe thunderstorms. These include, but are not limited to, the daytime heating, humidity levels, wind shear and competition with other thunderstorms in the vicinity.

Wind shear is the increase in speed and/or change in direction of air flow at different altitudes. Strong wind shear can lead to damaging wind gusts and/or tornadoes.

If a significant amount of thunderstorms erupt early during the day, the storms may compete with one another and can sometimes fail to produce strong tornadoes or a large number of tornadoes, according to AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Rich Putnam.

"Storms that hold off until late in the day and are isolated in nature could become intense and, under certain circumstances, lead to violent tornadoes," Putnam said.

While severe weather can occur at any time, day or night, the greatest risk of severe weather occurs between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m., according to the National Climatic Data Center. The peak hour for tornadoes is between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.

While the number of tornadoes this particular severe weather threat will deliver is unclear this early, May is the busiest month of the year for tornadoes on average.

The average number of tornadoes during May is 259, compared to a yearly average of 989 (based on three-year averages factoring in 2013, 2014 and 2015 tornado numbers), according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. As of May 2, the preliminary count of tornadoes for 2016 was 362.

Many of the ingredients for severe weather are often in place during May, including a clash of dry and moist air, significant wind shear and strong daytime heating.

The South Central states will likely remain a hot spot for heavy rainfall and severe weather moving forward into the summer as dry weather and warmth build farther to the north and east.