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Severe storms set to wallop north-central US with 100-mph winds

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 5/29/2022 Andrew Johnson-Levine

As the Memorial Day weekend continues, AccuWeather meteorologists say that rounds of intense thunderstorms can inflict significant damage and disruptions across the northern and central Plains.

This comes amidst an already busy stretch of severe weather. Over 20 reports of severe hail and damaging winds were received by the Storm Prediction Center on Saturday. This included reports of 75-mph wind gusts near Gillette, Wyoming, and Buffalo, South Dakota.

As a storm system moves eastward across the Plains, it will help lead to a setup conducive for a larger, more intense severe weather outbreak. This system has been partially responsible for the wet weather in the Northwest, but when combined with abundant heat and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, the atmosphere will be primed for the development of severe thunderstorms across the middle of the nation.

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The primary area of severe weather development will set up from central Nebraska to central Minnesota late Sunday. Residents of cities such as North Platte, Nebraska, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Minneapolis should be on alert for intense thunderstorms Sunday evening and through the overnight hours.

All hazards of severe weather will be possible from these storms, including large hail, damaging winds with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 100 mph, isolated tornadoes and flooding rainfall. Such intense winds can snap trees, cause widespread power outages and cause damage to structures. High-profile vehicles are also at risk of tipping over in the strong winds.

Some area rivers, such as the Red River of the North, continue to be above flood stage due to heavy spring rainfall, and these storms will only increase that threat.

Depending on the exact setup in the atmosphere, storms may organize into an intense and fast-moving line of storms, or even a derecho. While this is far from certain, there is a chance for a widespread damaging wind event across parts of the Plains. Earlier in the month, a derecho blasted the northern Plains with 100-mph winds, leaving two people dead.

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"If thunderstorms are able to organize into a line, damaging winds will become the primary hazard Sunday evening. But if storms remain more discrete, a threat of very large hail and even some tornadoes will be increased," AccuWeather Meteorologist Thomas Geiger explained.

The severe weather threat will continue into Monday, shifting slightly northward and southward. AccuWeather forecasters expect the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota to fall within the highest threat area. However, a more isolated severe threat may expand southward into Kansas and Missouri, and eastward toward the Mississippi River.

Sioux Falls will once again be threatened by intense storms, as will cities such as Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota.

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Much like on Sunday, all facets of severe weather will be possible on Monday. However, the risk for tornadoes will be higher on Monday, and a few strong and long-tracked tornadoes may be possible. People in the threat area will want to monitor the latest watches and warnings in the event of intense and damaging storms.

"With storms centered closer to the Red River on Monday, flooding will be a concern once again. With torrential rainfall on top of already saturated ground, these storms will only worsen ongoing flooding," Geiger explained.

Farther south, the heavy rainfall may be more welcome. Much of the central Plains remains in various stages of drought. Ninety-four percent of Nebraska, and 59 percent of South Dakota, are under at least a moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

By Tuesday, any severe threat is likely to shift well south and east, with conditions finally trending drier for the last half of the week across the North Central states.

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