KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Low clouds and some fog/drizzle has moved into the region first thing Tuesday morning. It won’t be the prettiest out there today, but the weather will be changing this afternoon and tonight as our much talked about storm moves into the Plains and upper Midwest.

Hey, it could be worse. Some parts of the upper Midwest are expecting over 2-3 FEET of snow today/tonight with blizzard conditions expected.

For us, we have a lot of wind coming. It’s breezy out there Tuesday morning, it will turn gusty as the afternoon moves along. Some areas may see gusts over 40 mph.

Winds will be a common thread through the Plains today with a variety of wind advisories and high wind warnings in effect from Nebraska south to Texas. Dangerous wildfires are a concern out west of the region.

We’ll be setting up for storms later tonight. For you late nighters: They should arrive sometime near midnight, earlier for northwest Missouri, northeast Kansas. For areas southeast of the metro, well after midnight it appears.

What those storms will be when they get here remains to be seen, but this seems to be setting up similar to what happened about 10 days ago with the potential of winds and some hail, and perhaps a higher potential of tornadoes in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas compared to Kansas City.

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Kansas City forecast:

Today: Clouds, drizzle, mist this morning turning partly cloudy, windy and eventually warm and muggy. Highs in the lower 80s with possible winds gusts to over 40 mph.

Tonight: Storm timing is toward midnight for Kansas City, earlier in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. Temperatures will drop behind the storms. By daybreak into the 40s. Windy as well. Some severe weather is expected with winds the main threat along with some smaller hail. A few tornado warnings are possible. Actual touchdowns though may be few or none or the area, with a higher risk in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.

Tomorrow: Variable clouds with some morning showers still possible. Minor amounts though. Breezy and chillier with highs in the lower 50s in the afternoon. Whatever we are at midnight is the high for the day though, likely well into the 60s.

Thursday: Partly cloudy and seasonable with highs near 60 degrees.

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Discussion:

So things continue to go according to plan, as far as I can tell at least. I don’t have much change in my reasoning for what should happen tonight into early tomorrow morning. The main timing of the squall line coming into the metro is roughly from 11 p.m. through about 2 a.m. Wednesday. It will come in earlier in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.

Storms will fire as the sun is setting in western Iowa southwards towards northern Kansas. Some of those storms may be severe with high winds and larger hail. Indications are there may be a slight weakening to the storms as they approach the metro. With that said, gusty winds and some hail are possible with the storm’s arrival.

Many of the things that I highlighted in yesterday’s blog (shear, instability etc.) are still in play. The wind shear in the lower few thousand feet or so is also very much in play, and that’s why smaller and short-lived tornadoes aren’t being ruled out, even closer to the Kansas City area later tonight. Sometimes these are actual tornadoes, other times they represent small pockets of higher winds and a tornado warning is issued.

With this being a late-night situation, and with spotting something like this being more difficult, there is a tendency to be a bit more aggressive in getting a tornado warning out, especially when the radar beam is shooting a bit higher (since the storm is farther away from the radar) into the storm.

So again, some warnings may be triggered later tonight. Have your ways of getting this weather information while you’re asleep so that if a warning is issued, you can get into the safe spot. The storms should be moving along at a pretty good clip, over 40 mph, so you won’t need to be there too long.

Timing the storm

So let’s get into things.

By 7 p.m. tonight, a strong area of low pressure will be into the Plains region.

You can see the cold front in blue. The warm front in red and the dry line in brown.

Storm chasers are likely heading up into Iowa today because while the morning has started on a chilly note with low dew points. The warmer Gulf air/moisture will be zipping into the Hawkeye state as the day moves along. Toward that area of low pressure is where various air masses will be colliding and circulating around the storm. We call that the “triple point.”

You can see that VERY clearly when I highlight the dew points at the same time as the map above.

Dew points into the 60s are real spring dew points and notice they make it up into northern Iowa.

Why? The strong winds circulating into that area of low pressure.

Notice how the fetch of winds is coming up right from the warm Gulf waters into eastern Nebraska.

Remember yesterday how we talked about CAPE and the connection to instability? Well there is a LOT of CAPE out there at the same time too!

Values over 2000 are good. Over 3000 are very impressive.

Also notice how there are no storms at 7 p.m. Why? We have ALL of the ingredients that you can want for storms, but yet forecast radar is essentially blank with activity anywhere near the Kansas City region.

7 p.m.

This is because we’re still capped, with warmish air close to 47 degrees at around 10,000 feet. As the clouds bubble up, they can’t break through that “warmth” and are suppressed.

Now looks what happens though when that cap weakens just enough. Here is forecast radar from 7 p.m. through 4 a.m. tomorrow morning:

For timing: 0Z is 7 p.m., 3Z is 10 p.m., 6Z is 1 a.m., and 9Z is 4 a.m.

You can see by this estimate, we’re still waiting on the storms to move in, even at 1 a.m. or so.

Also notice how as the storms approach Kansas City, they appear to be weakening. That’s because with the late night hour, the instability does start to fade a bit.

There is still some out there though and a decent amount of it, so I’m not totally sold on a weakening line as the models are showing, hence why I’m still concerned about severe weather risks into the metro later tonight into early tomorrow.

If the storms generate a large rain cooled area, and that spreads out ahead of the storms advance, that would indeed weaken the storms as they come into the Kansas City metro. That remains to be seen for storms that won’t exist till 8-9 p.m. tonight. Again, trying to make a forecast off a forecast.

The window for severe weather though is only a few hours. By 3 a.m. or so, things will be settling down in Kansas City. There may be some backside showers tomorrow before lunch, however amounts look to be minor.

The highest tornado risk still appears closer to where the storms are most energetic: northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas, and especially even farther north into Iowa.

Those are some pretty impressive tornado probabilities up there. The Storm Prediction Center defines these probabilities as:

Why do the probability values on the Convective Outlooks seem so low?
The probability values represent the chance of severe weather within about 25 miles of a point, which is about the size of a major metropolitan area. Though severe storms tend to receive a large amount of media coverage, severe weather is uncommon at any one location. Your chance of getting a tornado on any random day are very small, climatologically speaking. Put in that context, even a 10% chance of a tornado within 25 miles of a point means a much bigger threat than usual, and should be taken seriously. Think of how often tornadoes normally happen close to you on any given day, and those small-looking probabilities start to seem large by comparison!

So chasers are heading north, but man that is a tough chase with faster storm motions and a setting sun or total darkness. A lot in the atmosphere has to happen in Iowa very quickly this afternoon. Sometimes everything just doesn’t sync up in time.

We are currently in a level 3 out of 5 alert status with regards to severe weather chances.

What is weather anxiety?

So all this built-up talk about severe weather have some a bit anxious. As you know I try and take a very reasoned and calm approach to these situations. I’ve heard the grumblings about weather hype from others and others creating more anxiety for some of you, so I thought today I’d share some information for those who do in deed have storm anxiety.

First of all, there is actually a name for this. It’s called “astraphobia” also “brontophobia.” The fear of preparing for the potential for extreme thunderstorms.

Remember the odds of you needing to head to your safe spot with a tornado warning being issued for your community is relatively low. The odds of a tornado directly impacting your neighborhood is remote, VERY remote. With that said, again, we go through these scenarios every spring into summer it seems. So how can we help you with your astraphobia?

Here are some ideas from the National Weather Service

  1. Advance preparation – thinking about where you will take shelter, making sure you have several ways to get weather warnings and information, and having a plan for you and your family – can help reduce your fear and stress levels when storms are in the area. Planning and preparation puts you in control of your situation and can make the storms a little less scary.
  2. Think about what stresses you out the most about severe weather. For some people, it’s the sound of thunder, the flashes of lightning or the roar of the winds. For others, it’s the anticipation and uncertainty about what might happen to them or their family. If there is something that makes your fears worse that you can control, this might help you.
  3. Learn about the storms. Understand how they are forecast and what the various watch, warning and advisory terms mean. Follow the National Weather Service severe weather outlooks and forecasts online and learn about the science that goes into those severe weather predictions. Attend a free NWS storm spotter training class to learn more about tornadoes and severe storms.
  4. Many people who are afraid of storms want all the information they can get their hands on when severe weather is in the forecast. With social media, there are many sources of weather information to choose from. Some are considered official sources, like the NWS, your favorite TV station or local TV meteorologist, or your local emergency management or public safety agencies in your community, and these are generally good places to get weather information. A small percentage of social media forecasts tend toward the extreme or worst case scenario when forecasting severe weather. If you have storm anxiety, these might make things worse.
  5. Find a way to see radar data and learn to track the storms yourself. There are lots of apps that provide detailed radar data, and some of them will even plot your current location so you will always know where you are in relation to the storms. You can also access free radar data on the National Weather Service website and on your favorite local TV station’s website.
  6. Learn your local geography – nearby cities and towns, counties, interstates and highways – to make it easier to track the storms as they move through the area. Understanding where the storms are and where they’re going can make severe weather much less stressful.

I think all 6 items are good to use and learn from. This also can be helpful for the little ones, especially the learning about the storms angle. The more they (and you) know about why storms form, why lighting creates loud booming sounds that scare the little ones out of bed, the more they can adapt and perhaps in some cases, even be fascinated by storms that previously they were scared of!

Anyway just some reference because this will be one of many risks that we deal with over the coming months. The most active time for severe weather is May into mid-June around these parts.

The feature photo is from Terri Bruntmyer.

Joe