The Southern United States, including parts of Oklahoma and the Texan Panhandle, is expected to be hit hard by a barrage of violent tornadoes during Monday afternoon and evening, the Washington Post reports.
For the first time in two years, the Storm Prediction Center at the National Weather Service has declared a high risk for severe storms. This “high risk” label is reserved for events that are expected to be extremely long-lasting, intense, and widespread.
Many experts are highly concerned. Beth Carpenter, meteorologist for TDS weather, tweeted: “I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those outbreaks that we never forget.” Atmospheric scientist Roger Edwards adds, “This is the rare kind of event that may take many lives. Pray I’m wrong.”
A group of supercells, intense thunderstorms that can birth tornadoes, are predicted to hit west and south of the Oklahoma/Texas border later on Monday, tracking up to 40-50mph. Further rotating storms are forecast in southwest and south central Oklahoma.
Conditions are ripe for quickly-evolving storms. Under the extreme amount of wind shear, any thunderstorm is a risk for an eventual tornado.
The Storm Prediction Center forecasts “multiple significant” tornadoes, due to the combination of atmospheric spin and instability.
The National Weather Service office serving Norman, Oklahoma urges, “Have a safety plan, stay calm, and keep up to date with the latest weather information from a trusted source.”
The tornadoes also bring a high risk of flooding. The Weather Prediction Center, in charge of precipitation concerns, warns that “numerous, potentially significant flash flood events are likely.”
Most of Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas are under flash flood watches. These regions have already received up to 300% of their normal precipitation levels in the past two weeks, and their soils cannot absorb much more.
Hundreds of school districts across Oklahoma, including the University of Oklahoma, closed on Monday.