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Corridor of Intense Ohio Valley Supercells Possible Today!

A highly anticipated storm system is sweeping through the Central and Eastern U.S. early this week, and the Storm Prediction Center has highlighted a large geographic region from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast with the potential for severe weather today (Tue, Apr 2nd). A moderate risk (level 4 out of 5) is in place over portions of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and extreme western West Virginia, with an enhanced risk (level 3 out of 5) from Ohio to the Alabama/Georgia border, nearly intersecting the Florida Panhandle.

The risk for severe weather, including the potential for tornadoes is widespread today, but it is not uniform. Three distinct zones stand out to me.

Zone 1 | Southeast Illinois, Central and Southern Indiana, Central Ohio: Here, moisture has been scoured by early morning thunderstorms. Some recovery is expected, but limited in contrast to areas south of the Ohio River. Dew points in the lower 60s with air temperatures returning to the middle to upper 60s should provide adequate destabilization for renewed thunderstorm development. The problem is, I think this corridor will feature too many storms, too early. As lift overspreads the target area, limited capping will allow for widespread shower and thunderstorm development ahead of the surface low across eastern Illinois into Indiana by mid-day. A few rotating storms are possible given significant wind shear in place, but limited instability in this area should limit the overall coverage and intensity of the most severe, tornadic storms.

Zone 2 | Far Southern Indiana, Kentucky, Northern Tennessee, Southern Ohio: This is the sweet spot, or best combination of ingredients supportive of long-track supercell thunderstorms with tornado potential. South of the outflow reinforced, secondary warm front, dew points 65+ and temperatures rapidly returning to the middle 70s to near 80 degrees combined with increasingly supportive wind shear should favor a corridor of intense severe storms, perhaps with one or more long-lived, significant supercells. This area seems the most likely to produce an EF-2+ tornado this afternoon and evening.

Zone 3 | Southern Tennessee, Eastern Mississippi, Alabama, Northern and Central Georgia: The ingredients arrive a little later in this area, but by late evening into the overnight area numerous severe storms should develop along the cold front as it progresses east. A mostly linear storm mode is expected in this area, but embedded supercells could pose a risk of dreaded after-dark tornadoes in this corridor.

I've decided to sit this one out from a chasing perspective. The door is still cracked on a quick run out the door to keep any storms erupting nearby in southeast Illinois or western Indiana honest, but quick storm motions away from home and an increasingly less appetizing recovery of the atmosphere has my desk chair getting comfier by the hour. I'll sip coffee and eat through my to-do list and keep an eye on things in the meantime.

If I was headed out to observe storms today, I'm probably leaning north and trying to pick off any quick-moving, transient supercell structures that develop from Indianapolis to Dayton in the better terrain. If you're out and you really want to maximize that chance of seeing a memorable supercell and/or tornado, I'm probably just biting the bullet and looking for a favorable viewing zone in the poor terrain of Kentucky or far southern Ohio. Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati metro areas make me nervous today.


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