March 31st, 2007 11:10 EST
Central States Expect Snow, Rain and Severe Weather as Flood Concerns Grow
As a slow-moving low pressure system and associated cold front continue to move across the Central Plains, NOAA weather forecasters expect rains to continue and flooding to worsen from the Canadian border on the Red River of the North to the Rio Grande River in southern Texas. The low pressure was centered in northern Nebraska early Friday morning and is expected to strengthen Friday night before moving slowly eastward over the weekend.
Impacting the weather to some extent in 17 central states, the storm has left more than four feet of snow in areas of Wyoming, with isolated areas of heavy snow possible Friday. The chance of tornadoes is greatly reduced Friday after the system produced up to 65 tornadoes Wednesday and four on Thursday, according to local and national forecasts. Saturated soils and the high likelihood of more rain have prompted concerns for flooding and flash flooding in 13 states from North Dakota to Texas.
“We are far from being out of the woods with this storm system, although the possibility of severe storms and tornadoes looks to be limited more to Oklahoma and Texas,” said NOAA National Weather Service Central Region Director Lynn Maximuk, “We again encourage people to pay attention to the weather and to be especially cautious of flooding and flash flooding as rain continues over a large area through the weekend.”
Quick Reaction Teams from local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices Thursday provided preliminary intensity ratings for tornadoes in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.
A tornado that caused a fatality and several injuries in Holly, Colo., was rated as a high EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita intensity scale with winds of 130-135 mph. The twister was rated as possibly greater than EF3 about 15 miles north of the community. Tornadoes that hit Bird City, Kan., and Benkelman, Neb., were rated high EF2 or low EF3. The Grant, Neb., tornado was rated EF2, and the tornado that hit Ogallala, Neb., was rated EF1. Tornadoes that hit rural areas of west-central Kansas were rated EF1-EF2. The tornado that tore through Hodgeman and Ness counties in Kansas was rated EF3.
The damage survey team from NOAA’s Pueblo forecast office will return to Holly, Friday, for additional damage assessment and meetings with emergency management officials and residents.
For the third consecutive day, winter storm watches and warnings, blizzard warnings and heavy snow warnings were in effect Friday morning for portions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Impacted areas can, again, expect occasional white out conditions caused by high winds and blowing snow. Low snowfall amounts of 2-4 inches are expected Friday on top of snow that fell earlier in the week.
The Riverton, Wyo., weather forecast office staff recorded numerous amounts in the 12-inch to 30-inch range, with several much-more imposing amounts as well. With snow still falling, the office received reports from Fremont County of 70 inches at Hobbs Park, 53 inches at Homestead Park and 44 inches at Townsend Creek. Dome Lake in Sheridan County reported 58 inches; Cloud Peak Reservoir in Johnson County recorded 41 inches and Reno Hill in Natrona County reported 36 inches.
Even with the risk of severe weather being reduced, forecasters emphasized that the High Plains and Tornado Alley would experience rain, heavy at times, throughout the weekend. Early Friday morning, 158 flood warnings, watches or statements were in effect for weather forecast offices in 11 central plains states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. Flood statements unrelated to this storm were in effect in Louisiana, New York and Puerto Rico.
Continued rains will worsen flooding and flash flooding problems in a north-south line stretching between the Canadian and Mexican borders, including the Red River of the North in North Dakota and Minnesota; the Mississippi River in Minnesota and the Missouri River along the Nebraska-Iowa state line into northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.
The NOAA Paducah, Ky., weather forecast office received notice of a lightning fatality during a thunderstorm Thursday afternoon. According to the report, an 18-year-old male student died after being hit by lightning at a high school track and field complex in Carbondale, Ill.
A graphical depiction of the expected threats of severe weather, heavy snows, flooding, etc., can be found on the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center national forecast map.
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