May is finally acting like May across much of the country today. The odds of seeing large hail and damaging winds are 30x higher than normal in both the Mile High City and the Nation's Capital this afternoon, respectively. Some tornadoes are also possible, especially around Denver, but the risk is starting to drop a bit around D.C.
The Storm Prediction Center has issued a slight risk (yellow shading) for severe weather across a huge swath of the United States from Colorado to the Atlantic Ocean, indicating that the threat for severe weather today is a 2/5 on a scale measuring the risk for severe weather.
Around Washington D.C. and Denver, though, the risk is an enhanced 3/5.
The risk for tornadoes is 10x higher than normal around Denver and 2x higher than normal around D.C. For reference, 2x higher than normal usually warrants concern.
The Denver area could see storms much like the intense supercell the area saw yesterday, lasting several hours and producing copious amounts of hail as it slowly traveled east from the city towards eastern Colorado. While the storm (thankfully) didn't produce any tornadoes, the possibility is enhanced today.
Tornadoes on the Front Range are common this time of year. Between 1952 and 2010, the county that saw the most tornadoes in the United States was Weld County, Colorado — just northeast of Denver.
The tornado threat around D.C. is being held down by the cloud cover in the area.
Large hail is an inherent threat to most supercells, and that's what we're going to see today. The threat is especially high near Denver, where the threat for 'significant' hail (larger than golf balls) is 30x higher than normal. The threat for golf ball (or larger) size hail is also quite high in the Ohio Valley.
Extensive cloud cover in the Mid-Atlantic actually saved the D.C. area from falling under the 30x higher zone, since clouds are keeping down instability, and large hail needs high instability to form.
By far, the greatest threat today countrywide is damaging winds. Damaging winds are defined as thunderstorm wind gusts of 60 MPH or greater.
The risk is 30x higher than normal across the Ohio Valley and Washington D.C.
Keep an eye on the severe weather today, and stay safe. Here are some links to help you keep up-to-date with what's going on with the storms.
- The Storm Prediction Center is the official agency in charge of predicting severe thunderstorms in the United States.
- The National Weather Service issues local forecasts, as well as severe thunderstorm/tornado warnings across the U.S.
- Wunderground provides excellent weather radar imagery — click on the + closest to your location.
- NASA's website provides excellent satellite imagery from the GOES weather satellites.
- Dr. Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel is a world-class meteorologist who developed the accurate TOR:CON index that evaluates the threat for tornadoes on a 0-10 scale. Dr. Forbes' TOR:CON forecasts are found on weather.com.
[Images via GOES and SPC]