Strong storms may bring high winds, hail, and tornadoes to Central Texas Friday
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A potent upper-level storm system arrives in Texas Friday and likely sparks a rash of severe storms across North, East, and Central Texas. While not everyone will see severe weather (and potentially even rain), storms could bring all severe weather hazards including tornadoes, large hail, and strong straight-line winds.
Friday’s severe weather risk outlook
All of Central Texas is under at least a level ‘2′ severe weather risk with cities and towns east of Highway 281 falling into the level ‘3′ enhanced category. Since 2014, when the Storm Prediction Center started using a five category scale to determine the severe weather risk outlook, Central Texas has not been under a level 3, 4, or 5 severe weather risk in November.
The main concern with Friday’s storms stems from strong straight-line wind gusts along an arriving cold front. Wind gusts within the strongest thunderstorms along the front may gust between 60 and 65 MPH with isolated higher gusts. The overall wind gust risk is either at a level ‘2′ along and west of Highway 281 or at a level ‘3′ near and east of I-35.
The other major concern is the potential for a few tornadoes. The tornado potential is likely going to be highest in North Texas and Northeast Texas, out of our area, but the eastern half of our area from I-35 eastward is under a level ‘3″ enhanced tornado potential. With the midday risk outlook update, the Storm Prediction Center has included all cities in towns in our area under a level ‘3′ risk in what’s called the ‘hatched’ area. A hatched area means there’s the potential for “significant severe weather”. For tornadoes, a significant severe weather risk means there’s a higher chance for EF-2 tornadoes or stronger.
As far as hail goes, all storms may contain hail but large hail, potentially nearing golf-ball size, will be confined to any thunderstorms that manage to form well in advance of the approaching front. The isolated early-to-mid afternoon storms will bring us either a level ‘1′ or level ‘2′ hail threat depending on where you live.
Friday’s highest rain chances come during the afternoon and early evening
While we’re confident that severe thunderstorms will form across parts of our area, Texas, there exits a large amount of uncertainty regarding the timing of those storms as forecast model data is showing varying speeds of the arriving cold front. A slower arriving front likely brings more of Central Texas severe storms and may potentially increase the overall severe weather threat, while a faster arriving front may give us a smaller window for severe storms.
The most likely scenario is that isolated-to-scattered strong storms may begin to form around or shortly after lunch time near and east of I-35. These more lone thunderstorms should be moving from south to north and may latch onto warm and humid air bringing us the first severe weather chance. As long as storms remain fairly isolated and not fighting one another to become dominant, large hail, gusty winds, and tornadoes are the main threat. If storms cluster up then the overall severe weather risk could be a bit more limited.
As scattered storms move through in the afternoon, our approaching cold front will eventually spark a growing line of thunderstorms as it enters into our area. The most likely timeframe for storms to form with the front is between 3 PM and 5 PM. The line of storms will carry a tornado and wind gust risk, but the hail risk will likely be lower. Storms should approach I-35 close to the evening rush hour and then surge across I-35 before crossing over I-45 between 9 PM and 11 PM. Again, the timing of the frontal boundary is still in question, but this scenario brings us the highest chance of severe storms.
The other possibility, which is possible but looking less likely, is that the cold front arrives near I-35 around 3 PM. The faster arriving cold front may not prevent isolated-to-scattered storms from forming ahead of the front, but storms immediately along the front may struggle to get going until getting near and crossing over I-35. Severe storms would still be possible but the frontal boundary’s storm chance may be confined only east of I-35 in this case. This scenario is shown just below.
No drought-busting rain to be seen locally
The latest drought monitor, updated Thursday, is almost entirely unchanged from last week’s despite last Friday’s rainfall being counted into Thursday’s update. Given that storms may only impact about the eastern two-thirds of our area, we’re not expecting Friday’s storms to make a serious impact on the ongoing drought.
Rainfall totals increase from west-to-east since most of Friday’s storms will impact cities and towns east of Highway 281. Rainfall totals could potentially only approach a quarter-inch in Hamilton, Mills, and San Saba County, but higher totals, between a half-inch and one inch, are expected farther east. The most likely location for 1″+ rainfall totals will be east of I-35 since storms along the front will be more mature by the time they reach that point. Localized flooding issues could creep up, but the flash flooding threat is quite limited.
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