Severe thunderstorms and the risk to lives and property will ramp up late this week over parts of the central United States as the first in a series of spring storms arrives.
While the overall nature of the thunderstorms, including the number of tornadoes possible, is still uncertain, there is the potential for a significant severe weather outbreak spanning Thursday afternoon through Saturday.
The severe storm threat will cover the full spectrum of dangerous weather ranging from wind gusts topping 60 mph and large hail to frequent lightning strikes and isolated flash flooding.
"Given the time of the year, there will likely be at least a few tornadoes in the strongest storms from Thursday into Saturday," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.
The first storms are likely to erupt over the High Plains from western Texas to western and central Nebraska, near the boundary between dry air to the west and moist air to the east on Thursday afternoon.
"A combination of record warmth, surging moisture, a strong storm and shifting winds at different levels of the atmosphere, known as wind shear, will set the stage for severe weather beginning over the southern and central Plains," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg.
Thursday night, the threat of severe weather will extend eastward from Grand Island, Nebraska, to Wichita, Kansas, Oklahoma City and Abilene, Texas.
"It is possible that the worst day in terms of the number and intensity of the storms will be Thursday," according to AccuWeather Lead Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.
After blasting the Interstate 27 and U.S. Route 83 corridors, the powerful storms will press eastward through the end of the week.
By Friday afternoon, severe storms will likely stretch along a swath from near Kansas City, Missouri, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.
During Friday night, the dangerous and potentially damaging storms will press toward the Mississippi River.
By the weekend, the threat of severe weather will shrink southward and is not likely to reach across the Midwest.
However, there will be the potential for strong to locally severe thunderstorms over the Mississippi Delta region on Saturday.
People are urged to monitor the forecast and severe weather bulletins closely as they are issued.
Additional rounds of severe weather are likely to follow over many of the same areas later this weekend and into next week. A long parade of storms will continue to roll in from the Pacific Ocean, move across the Intermountain West then reorganize over the Plains.