Alabama and the Deep South have distinct severe weather seasons. The primary season is during the late fall/early winter and then a secondary season during the late winter and early spring. This year, we’ve been fairly lucky in Central Alabama to only have a handful of events that produced tornadoes and severe weather. The primary reason for our severe weather seasons occurring during this time is our proximity to source of warm and moist air (the Gulf of Mexico). In a severe weather set-up, this air travels north into Central Alabama to fuel thunderstorms that could lead to dangerous weather.
In the Midwest, it’s a little bit different. While we are preparing for severe weather, they prepare for snow and ice. Cold air makes it to the Midwest almost routinely until the start of spring. Even then, cold snaps can send temperatures plummeting. However, as May rolls around and spring turns into summer, people in the Midwest brace for strong storms and the possibility of tornadoes.
During the spring months in the Midwest, storm systems can tap into this warm, moist air with a little more regularity. The surface cold fronts and the upper level systems that drive severe weather take different tracks than they would during the winter or early spring. In addition, they don’t have to contend with the colder air that turns these storms into snow producers earlier in the year instead of severe storm machines this time of year. The result is large tornadoes that make for good video opportunities for storms chasers, but can also cause damage and death if people aren’t prepared.
Today, May 18, a High Risk for severe weather exists for south-central Kansas and north-central Oklahoma. Destructive tornadoes, large hail, and strong winds are all possible today in that area.