Multi-day stretch of severe weather to disrupt travel, threaten lives in north-central US

As a heat wave builds in the southern Plains this week, several rounds of strong-to-severe thunderstorms will ride along the northern periphery of the heat dome and target the north-central United States.

While incidents of severe weather have been generally sparse since the weekend, the coverage of damaging wind, hail and even tornado reports is forecast to increase significantly through midweek.

"It appears that the severe weather/tornado threat will ramp up in a big way this week across the northern Plains, with tornadoes possible in central North Dakota, including the Bismarck area, Tuesday evening and possibly southern Minnesota on Wednesday," said AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer.

The first round of storms should get underway late Tuesday afternoon and evening in portions of northern South Dakota and western North Dakota. It is within the first few hours after the storms erupt that the tornado threat will be the greatest.

Tues Severe 5 am Static
Tues Severe 5 am Static

As the storms move eastward, they should gradually congeal into a line Tuesday night upon arrival in Fargo, North Dakota, and much of western and northern Minnesota. The storms should weaken significantly before reaching Minneapolis late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

In addition to the threat for tornadoes, damaging winds, hail and torrential downpours are all likely in areas that get rattled by the strongest storms.

Behind the storms, cooler air diving out of Canada will progress southward into the day on Wednesday.

As steamy air moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico collides with the cooler air and interacts with a disturbance moving into the western Plains, another round of severe weather will erupt across an even larger area than on Tuesday.

Areas from the Front Range of Colorado through much of Nebraska, western Kansas, southern Minnesota and Iowa, will be at risk for life-threatening storms on Wednesday.

Cities that lie within Wednesday's threat zone include Omaha, Lincoln and North Platte, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Dodge City, Kansas. Storms may fire up around or just east of Denver, Colorado.

Wed Severe 5 am Static
Wed Severe 5 am Static

Extensive portions of interstates 29, 80, 90 and 94 may be impacted by these storms through midweek. Anybody with travel plans or even making the drive to and from work should remain cognizant of the latest severe weather alerts and be prepared for dangerous crosswinds and rapid reductions in visibility.

Because much of the morning and early afternoon hours are likely to remain rain-free across much of the risk area, outdoor enthusiasts can still take advantage of the outdoor air, but should be wary of darkening skies late in the day and position themselves close to an indoor shelter.

Widespread wind gusts of 60-80 mph are possible across the north-central Plains through midweek. Winds of this intensity are more than enough to bring down trees and power lines, as well as blow shingles off roofs and cause home and property damage.

If a tornado warning is issued, seek shelter in a storm cellar or basement immediately. Never seek shelter under a bridge or overpass, since debris can get easily channeled through tight, narrow spaces.

Vehicles can get severely damaged and even completely destroyed by large hail, so residents should make keeping their vehicles in a garage or other closed shelter a priority this week in order to eliminate this risk.

While much of the northern Plains will get a break from severe storms on Thursday, the threat will once again focus primarily on Nebraska for the second day in a row.