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Great Plains braces for severe storms through the weekend

By Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather.com

Severe weather will focus on the Great Plains of the United States into Friday night, but while the number of tornadoes may be low, the storms will continue to pose a risk to lives and property, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

The main effects from the storms will be high wind gusts, hail and torrential downpours that may trigger localized flash flooding. Only a handful of the strongest storms may produce a brief tornado.

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A large wedge of cool, dry air will generally suppress large-scale severe weather activity from near the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast for the rest of the week and perhaps right through the weekend, with a few small-scale exceptions.

Instead, severe thunderstorms will erupt along a 1,400-mile swath from Texas to North Dakota through at least Thursday evening.

"The vast majority of the storms in this zone will tend to be spotty and occur from mid-afternoon through the evening hours," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Adam Douty said, adding, "However, there will be some exceptions, especially where the storms organize into large complexes and may travel for hundreds of miles, last through the night and perhaps into the next morning."

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One such zone AccuWeather meteorologists are watching for one or two such complexes will extend from eastern Colorado and West Texas to western and central Oklahoma and north-central Texas from Wednesday night to Thursday.

Should the storms survive the trip to Dallas, a major metro area and airport hub, major travel disruptions may result again. From Monday night to Tuesday, the Dallas area was hit hard by multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms that brought large hail and high winds. The storms pushed parked aircraft around at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and cut the power to hundreds of thousands in the metro area and more than 1 million throughout the Lone Star State.

The Houston area was affected by severe weather and 1-2 inches of rain on Tuesday afternoon and could be impacted more than once throughout the week if storms push to the Gulf Coast.

As a disturbance pushes out from the southern Rockies on Thursday, another concentrated area of severe thunderstorms could extend from West Texas to central Texas. Another more regional zone of severe weather could also develop over parts of the northern Plains and extend into south-central Canada.

On Friday, the risk of severe weather will shift to the east and away from the High Plains to the lower-elevation areas of the Plains.

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Friday's severe weather will most likely extend from central and southeastern Texas to southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri.

"On Saturday, the likelihood of heavy, gusty thunderstorms and the potential for severe weather will likely again reset farther to the west over the High Plains," Douty said. "AccuWeather will upgrade the potential for severe thunderstorms as warranted."

As a disturbance moves eastward from the Rockies, this time from the northern part of the Rockies, the likelihood of locally severe thunderstorms will extend from western Kansas to the Dakotas and western Minnesota.

Once again, the main threats on Sunday will be high wind gusts, large hail and localized flash flooding.

Because the storms will tend to dwell and fire again over much of the same zones each day through the weekend, where the downpours repeat, the potential for flash flooding of small streams and significant rises on rivers will also increase.

The region at greatest risk for stream and river flooding will include familiar territory in central and northeastern Texas and western Louisiana. From mid-April to mid-May, much of this area received two to three times its normal rain, with double-digit rainfall in some locations, which sent streams, rivers and bayous to major flood stage.

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The risk of flooding on a regional basis will extend northward through much of Oklahoma, western Arkansas and eastern Kansas.

However, much of the central U.S. will be at risk for at least localized incidents of flash flooding this weekend as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico escalates over the region and triggers showers and heavier thunderstorms.

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