A strong low-pressure system sweeping across Intermountain West Sunday will be the catalyst for a multi-day outbreak of severe weather this week across the Southern Plains and Gulf Coast.
Starting Monday, more than 20 million people along the Gulf Coast could be affected by strong winds, very large hail and tornadoes.
A Category 3 out of 5 “enhanced” risk for severe storms has been issued by the Hurricane Forecast Center (SPC) over parts of Texas and Louisiana, including Houston, Austin, and Waco, Texas.
Level 2 “mild” risk surrounds enhanced risk and includes San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
When tornadoes occur during the day, people are usually awake, alert and making a conscious effort to look for weather announcements. At night, it’s a different story. It’s imperative that you have a weather radio, a weather app on your phone, or any other warning system to wake you up if you live in an area with a major overnight storm.
By Tuesday, the threat to severe weather increased as it moved farther east. The potential for strong tornadoes, hail and gusts is possible from Lafayette, Louisiana, east to Huntsville, Alabama.
A Category 4 out of 5 “moderate” risk for severe storms has been issued by the SPC over areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, and includes Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi.
Level 3 “advanced” risk surrounds moderate risk and includes New Orleans.
Nighttime tornadoes will also be a concern Tuesday night as will areas of Alabama, southern Mississippi and western Florida.
Fourth, the focus becomes the area between Mobile, Alabama, and Columbia, South Carolina.
Warm, moist air will pour in from the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the advancing cold front, increasing the likelihood of flooding.
While most parts of the Southeast will see 1-3 inches of rain, isolated spots could reach up to 4 inches through Wednesday.
Texas can use rain
But before the much-needed rain arrives on Monday, low humidity and strong winds ahead of the frigid front will increase fire risk.
Severe and severe fire weather forecasts were issued for parts of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota on Sunday.
Strong sustained winds of 20-25 mph across the region are expected, with gusts as high as 45-50 mph. Minimum relative humidity will drop to 10-15 percent on Sunday afternoon.
Although rain is expected to arrive on Monday, it cannot come anytime soon. Much of the Texas capital receives no appreciable rainfall for much of the winter, largely preventing March’s normal “blossom” and leaving areas with large amounts of dry fuel, which simply means drier plants are more likely to burn.