The first severe weather risk in the middle of the country for 2023 waited a full day to appear: it looks like we’re in for an enhanced threat of a few tornadoes in the region starting this afternoon and lasting into tonight. Additionally, damaging winds and some hail will be possible as well.

Today’s tornado outlook courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center shows an enhanced area of tornado potential from SE OK/NE TX into Arkansas and Louisiana.

Messy Storm Modes

The big takeaway I have from this morning’s model runs is that the storm modes look pretty messy/crowded throughout the day. Storms initially form in the mid-afternoon and expand in coverage and increase in intensity into the evening/night.

  • There is enough wind shear present for a few of these storms that can keep clean inflow layers to rotate. More crowded storm modes will limit this threat.
  • The tornado risk likely maximizes near and after dark, but it will be on the rise starting by about mid-afternoon.
  • There will be two waves of storms. An early wave that forms over NE TX/SE OK which races northeast and then another that forms further west towards dark along a pacific front perhaps all the way back to I-35.

Models show the initial wave of storms forming by mid-afternoon (2-3 p.m.) and racing northeast. The storms that can root near the surface could pose a tornado risk starting by 2-3 p.m. local time.

By dark (6 p.m.), there will likely be a couple of bands/broken lines of storms ongoing across the region. Any storms that can keep clean inflow will likely pose a threat for a strong tornado, but quick spin-up tornadoes along line segments are also possible.

The Day Starts With a Pretty Robust Cap

Morning soundings showed strong capping over the region thanks to a pronounced EML that moved overhead the past day or so. This will likely delay storm formation further west until dark or just after as the main upper energy brushes past.

  • Storms further east will likely form in a zone of weak general lift this afternoon, but due to the cap they may not be fully based at the surface at first. This would initially limit tornado chances if that occurs.
  • The environment is a pretty typical cool season low cape/moderately high wind shear type of environment. Any isolated storms rooted at the surface will be dangerous to be sure.

Initial soundings in the mid-afternoon show a reasonable environment for severe weather with 1000-1500 j/kg of MLCAPE and 150-200 0-1km SRH. Both of these would support rotating storms.


By evening, the low-level wind shear will likely increase further to the east thanks to a strengthening low level jet. But as the upper energy arrives and departs, wind profiles may become a bit more chaotic as well. Still, there will be a narrow window for strong tornadoes likely early this evening.


The low-level winds will be adequate for some tornadoes but not exceptionally strong during the afternoon. Given their slight SSW direction, this will limit the low-level wind shear initially.


I think that storms will gradually become messier/more linear with time, but low-level winds will also generally be on the increase throughout the day. The saving grace for folks might be messier storm modes will be in place by the time a robust (~60kt) low-level jet takes shape well after dark.

The Things to Watch

I feel like a broken record, but many to most severe events come down to storm mode — this is especially true for events in the cool season. The length of time that storms are isolated/surface based will determine how large the strong tornado threat ends up being.

  • Given the strong low-level jet, linear storm structures will be capable of the quick spin-up tornadoes well after dark no matter how things evolve throughout the day.
  • The cap and how quickly it erodes will likely determine how large the tornado threat is before dark with the initial wave of storms. If you can get enough heating/destabilization in the low-levels by mid-afternoon, a few tornadoes seem like a reasonable bet across the enhanced threat area.
  • How far west will storms go? Some models have cells firing up as far west as I-35. Even back that far, storms will have a tendency to rotate if they are isolated, so we’ll have to watch for tornado potential that far west into the early evening.

The pacific front will likely be along/just west of I-35 just before dark. Storms may form at about this point, pointing to a severe risk further west.

The Bottom Line

Expect the tornado risk to be at its highest from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today in the enhanced threat area outlined above. Tornado watches seem likely to go out by early-mid afternoon.

  • Have a source of weather info close by.
  • Be sure to share forecasts with your social networks, awareness of incoming severe weather threats is a major help towards determining if people can take adequate shelter or not.