March 31, 2023

Central U.S. Faces First 'High' Risk Severe Weather Day In Years

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) expects a widespread and significant severe weather outbreak across much of the central United States on Friday, including the potential for "violent, long-lived tornadoes," as well as destructive wind gusts of 75+ mph and very large hail in the strongest storms.

This is the first high risk issued by the SPC since March 25, 2021, a day that saw multiple violent tornadoes tear across Alabama and Georgia. This also appears to be the first 'double' high risk—with two distinct bullseyes—in over a decade.

Friday's upgrade to high risk is tornado-driven, according to SPC forecasters, with a better-than-even chance of violent, long-lived tornadoes in eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois—including Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Peoria—as well as a swath of the Mid-South, centered around the Memphis metro area.

Areas under the high risk are just where dynamics are approaching peak favorability for significant tornadoes. We still have a very large swath of the country under a moderate risk, including almost the entire state of Illinois, most of Indiana, and large portions of every state bordering the Mississippi River down to Greenville.

Communities in and around the moderate and enhanced risk areas could also see widespread destructive wind gusts, significant tornadoes, and large hail. Many major cities and transportation hubs are included in this sprawling threat for severe weather.

"Particularly Dangerous Situation" (PDS) tornado watches were issued for most of the high risk and moderate risk areas by midday on Friday, with the threat growing through the afternoon hours and spreading east into the overnight.

This wide-ranging severe weather outbreak will push east Friday night into early Saturday morning as the powerful Colorado low responsible for this outbreak tracks across the Great Lakes into Ontario.

Another round of severe weather is likely on Saturday up and down the East Coast, with damaging winds and isolated tornadoes possible from near the Quebec border down through the Florida Panhandle.

Make sure you've got a way to get warnings and seek safe shelter, and give your friends and family a heads-up if they're in the area.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.