The storm system that brought blizzard warnings to Southern California on Friday and Saturday will produce a significant damaging wind event across the central US on Sunday.
According to CNN, By midday Sunday the Storm Prediction Center was forecasting a derecho to develop Sunday afternoon and evening. A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.
“A derecho is forecast with widespread damaging winds and embedded swaths of significant severe gusts from 80-110 mph, centered on parts of Oklahoma this evening into tonight,” the storm center said. “Embedded tornadoes are anticipated as well, with the greatest potential for strong (EF2-EF3) tornadoes across southwest Oklahoma this evening.”
Winds of 80 to 110 mph are equivalent to a Category 2 Atlantic hurricane. If a swath of damaging winds extends more than 240 miles and includes wind gusts of 58 mph or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho, according to the National Weather Service.
The highest severe storm risk today, a Level 4 out of 5 or moderate risk, has been issued across portions of western Oklahoma and Texas. Cities under this risk include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, and Enid in Oklahoma. This area is where the highest chance of a strong tornado will be late Sunday afternoon.
This is the first Level 4 out of 5 risk issued so far this year, the last Level 4 risk was issued on December 14, 2022, when a tornado touched down in New Orleans.
Overall, more than 20 million people are under the threat of severe storms Sunday from western Texas to Illinois, including Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, Fort Worth, and St. Louis.
“A significant damaging wind event is expected from the eastern Texas Panhandle into much of Oklahoma and southeast Kansas late this afternoon through this evening,” the Storm Predication Center wrote in their forecast discussion early Sunday morning. Damaging wind gusts of more than 75 mph will be possible, as well as a couple strong tornadoes. Frequent lightning and hail are also possible.