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Severe weather, fire dangers and simmering heat predicted for Memorial Day weekend

By Mike Heuer
The National Weather Service says storms in the Central U.S. could produce large hail, tornadoes and localized flooding Saturday before pushing eastward through the weekend.
The National Weather Service says storms in the Central U.S. could produce large hail, tornadoes and localized flooding Saturday before pushing eastward through the weekend.

May 25 (UPI) -- Severe storms in the Great Plains, fire dangers in the Mountain West and heat across south Texas, the Gulf Coast and southern Florida herald the start of Memorial Day weekend.

An estimated 43.8 million travelers are expected to travel at least 50 miles to reach a holiday destination this weekend, which nearly equals the high of 44 million travelers in 2005, according to the AAA auto club.

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The auto club says 33.4 million will travel by car, 3.51 million by air and 1.9 million by other means. The total travelers this year is about 4% more than the 42 million Memorial Day weekend travelers in 2023.

Severe weather could impact travel and holiday plans in parts of the central and southern Plains as a storm system grows stronger in the central Plains, the National Weather Service reported.

A warm front moving into the central Plains and the middle Mississippi Valley could trigger severe thunderstorms that might include large hail, destructive winds and "intense tornadoes," according to the NWS Storm Prediction Center.

The NWS has declared a moderate level-4 for severe thunderstorms for parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri as several supercells form in the Rockies and push eastward toward the Ozarks.

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The storms could produce heavy amounts of rainfall and localized flash flooding in low-lying areas before shifting to the east into the Midwest and Ohio Valley Sunday and the eastern United States Monday.

Dry conditions in the southern High Plains and southern Rockies pose a fire threat.

Low humidity, dry vegetation and wind gusts could cause any fires triggered by lightning or human sources to spread rapidly throughout New Mexico, southeast Arizona, western Texas and the western Oklahoma Panhandle region.

The NWS also predicts above-average temperatures for most of the eastern, mid-South and central/southern Plains for the weekend. The heat should push westward by Monday.

Heat will reach "oppressive" levels across southern Texas, the Gulf Coast and Florida with heat indices in the triple digits and as high as 115 degrees.

Several record high temperatures might be recorded in those areas and make it dangerous to stay outdoors for extended periods.

The NWS expects cooler temperatures over the Rockies, northwest and north-central United States through the weekend.

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