BY JIM MISUNAS
WICHITA — The National Weather Service in Wichita issued a tornado watch Tuesday afternoon for central and eastern Kansas that does not include Barton County. Neighboring Ellsworth, Rice, Reno and Lincoln counties are part of the tornado watch. The severe storms are forecast to move south and east of Barton County.
The first thunderstorm warning was issued for Harper, Kingman and Sumner counties at 2:26 p.m.
The NWS in Wichita downgraded the forecast of long-track tornadoes, but issued the threat of hail in excess of three inches accompanied by 70 mph winds Tuesday afternoon starting in western Kansas. Dodge City forecasters predict areas west of US 183 appear to be safe.
An outbreak of severe storms is predicted Tuesday across central and eastern Kansas although no watches had been issued as of noon Tuesday. The supercell storms will have the potential to produce destructive hail more than three inches in diameter. Severe storms were expected to develop after 1 p.m. with the severe risk continuing into the overnight hours.
Severe thunderstorms developed Tuesday morning in central and northeast Oklahoma, which could affect southeast Kansas.
“We’re still in category 4 due to the potential of extremely large hail — baseball, softball sized hail,” said Chance Hayes, Wichita meteorologist. “All areas west of the Flinthills we could see hail in excess of 3-inches in diameter along with 70 mph winds. We have the potential for multiple rounds of severe weather. There is an abundance of energy to be tapped.”
Somewhere east of US 183, a dryline is expected to trigger severe thunderstorms in the mid-to-late afternoon hours Tuesday in central Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
“Storms are expected to develop along the dryline,” Hayes said. “We have backed off the threat for large long-track tornadoes. The threat for tornadoes is still there. But the ability for them to be long-track and extremely strong is limited because of the air flow aloft, which is parallel to the boundaries.”
The 1-35 corridor offers a 45 percent zone for hail in excess of 2 inches and a 30 percent chance of winds in excess of 60 mph.
Extremely dry conditions are lodged in New Mexico and Texas, a prime ingredient for severe spring storms. The Kansas storms are forecast to start from near Comanche, Kiowa, Edwards, Pawnee and Rush counties. It’s also possible Barton County might miss all of the severe weather. More forecasts have pushed the formation of the dryline farther east along a Harper, Kingman, Reno, McPherson County line.
A few high end supercells with all facets of severe weather still look possible, including up to 3-inch hail, but the risk of strong, long track tornadoes was downgraded into isolated tornadoes into the evening hours.
Highs are forecast to rise into the upper 70s and lower 80s Tuesday afternoon accompanied by higher humidity. The dry line is expected to move east through Tuesday. The dry line will likely act as the initiation point for afternoon storms.
nitial storms that remain isolated pose the greatest tornado threat and could also produce very large hail. As storms converge into a line, the threat will shift from very large hail and tornadoes to a stronger wind event.