Severe Storms Possible Sunday

The weather pattern is expected to remain active through the weekend as a series of frontal systems impact Central Illinois. As is typical of strong storm systems this time of year, severe weather could accompany the passage of a strong cold front that is expected to move through on Sunday, November 5th.

What to Expect

Saturday - A warm front will lift north through Central Illinois bringing widely scattered rain showers to the area through early afternoon. Behind the front, temperatures are expected to climb in to the lower 60s with dew points reaching the lower 50s. 

Sunday - Temperatures and dew points will continue to increase ahead of a cold front that will move through in the afternoon. It will be a balmy day with most locations seeing temperatures in the lower 70s with dew points in the lower to mid-60s. This warm moist air will increase instability across the region, just before the strong cold front moves through. Storms are expected to develop along and ahead of the front, and with more than adequate wind shear, these storms may become severe.

What Are The Threats?

The primary threats will be from early Sunday afternoon through Sunday evening across Central Illinois. Damaging wind gusts over 60 MPH and large hail greater than 1.0" in diameter will be the primary threats but isolated tornadoes will also be possible.

 

Unanswered Questions

The exact timing of the cold front is still in question. Models have trended slightly faster with the passage of the front which will bring the main focus of severe weather to areas along and east of the Illinois River with the greatest risk across eastern portions of the region. If the front were to continue to speed up, the severe weather risk would decrease. On the other hand, if the front slows down the severe weather risk would increase. 

Severe Weather in November

It's not unusual to experience a few rounds of severe weather in the month of November. In fact, this time of year is often referred to as Illinois' "second season". As the weather pattern begins to transition from the warm-humid air we see in the summer to the cold-dry air of winter, it's not unusual for strong storm systems to produce severe weather. 

Typically, the state of Illinois will experience a bump in severe weather reports, including tornadoes, during the month of November. Strong fall storm systems tend to bring warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico in the Midwest while cold dry air comes down from Canada and the Rockies on the back side of the storm. This clash of two completely different air masses can lead to the development of explosive storms. 

Could This Be Similar To The Tornado Outbreak Of November 17th, 2013?

This is a question I've been asked a lot and I am sure will be asked again. There is no doubt that there are similarities between this weekend's storm and the one that occurred in 2013. Here are some of the similarities and differences between the two events.

  • Mild Temperatures and High Dew Points
    • A lot of folks are quick to point out the temperatures in the 60s and 70s with dew points in the 60s as the big one. While that is certainly going to be the case this time around as well, one could make the argument that these particular conditions are fairly common for any severe weather event across Central Illinois in November. 
  • Wind Shear and Instability
    • While there questions in just how much instability will be present, it could be a comparable amount to what we experienced in 2013 which is more than enough for thunderstorms to develop. Whether that instability will be rooted at the surface or few thousand feet off the ground is still somewhat unclear. Instability that is based near the surface would increase the potential for tornadoes.   
    • There are more notable differences in the wind shear. While the AMOUNT of wind shear is similar (50-60 knots), the TYPE of shear is different and will help define what kind of severe weather we'll see. In 2013, the Jet Stream was a bit more amplified then it looks to be this time. This means that there was a bit more directional shear, a change of wind direction with height.
    • This time around, the upper-level pattern is not as amplified as it was in 2013 and we don't have as strong of a surface low moving along the cold front. This will lead to more speed shear (change of wind speed with height) instead of directional shear. This type of shear tends to favor storms that will produce wind damage and large hail than storms that produce tornadoes. 

So while this pattern has some similarities with the one that brought tornadoes to Central Illinois on November 17th, 2013, it's not the same. As is normally the case, a lot of pieces have to come together at exactly the right time for another significant severe weather event.

For now, just make sure to review your severe weather plans and continue to monitor future forecast from Your Local Weather Authority as the details become clear. 


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