Storms Threaten Great Plains With Hail, Tornadoes

Major storms have reached a swath of the Great Plains from Oklahoma City up through central Kansas and into Nebraska. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with Chance Hayes, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wichita, Kansas.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

From NPR News, it's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

Our cover story today: the GOP's gender gap. We'll get to that in a few moments, but first to the severe weather in much of the Great Plains. The National Weather Service is warning that today's outbreak of tornadoes could be a, quote, "high-end, life-threatening event." Several confirmed tornadoes have already touched down across Kansas and Oklahoma, and more are expected in Nebraska and Iowa.

We're joined now by Chance Hayes with the National Weather Service in Wichita. Chance, thanks for talking with us.

CHANCE HAYES: You bet.

RAZ: What can we expect in the next 12 hours?

HAYES: Well, over the next 12 hours, we're going to see a huge transition in the weather across much of Kansas. Right now, we're looking at what we call supercell thunderstorms, which are rotating storms that have the potential to produce extremely large hail and strong tornadoes. Then as we continue to go through the overnight hours, those storms will begin to transition into what we call a squall line, which will produce very strong straight-line winds, some hail and quite a bit of rainfall.

RAZ: This is only the second time in history that the National Weather Service has issued such a severe warning more than 24 hours ahead of the storm. Is it that big? Is it that significant?

HAYES: What's interesting about this is the science and the technology is allowing us to provide better forecast for the public, 24, 36, 48 hours in advance to let them know of the potential that they may be facing. And we're starting to see the benefits of those improvements in technology.

RAZ: What will happen as these storms begin to move east?

HAYES: As they continue to move east, they're going to continue at their strength as they are with the potential for tornadoes and also large hail. But as they begin to transition once the sun sets, it's going to go more towards a very strong straight-line wind event.

RAZ: And you folks still expect that some of the most severe weather could come overnight, right?

HAYES: Yes. And that's one of the things that's a little bit nerve-racking for us is because it's harder for people to see what's coming towards them. So they have a tendency to react just a little bit slower than before.

RAZ: Well, we'll be watching this story. Chance Hayes is the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wichita. Stay with NPR for regular updates both on air and online at npr.org. Chance, stay safe and thank you for the update.

HAYES: You bet. Thank you very much.

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