Regarding the tornado outbreak: NOAA is currently estimating 211 tornadoes on Wednesday and early Thursday, which if it stands, would make it far and away the greatest number of tornadoes in a single outbreak in U.S. history, eclipsing the 148 of the April 4, 1974, Super Outbreak (which included an F2 that injured 6 people in Roanoke/Salem/northern Roanoke County). That number will very likely shift as storm surveys (a) consolidate multiple reports into single tornado paths, reducing the total and (b) new tornado touchdowns or tracks are discovered, increasing the total. NOAA says that the 329 deaths makes it the third deadliest tornado outbreak in its records, and utilizing historical records as far back as 1680, the sixth deadliest in U.S. and colonial history. (Inset map at left depicts tornado reports for all of April, also possibly a record at more than 600.)
Hidden behind the extremely deadly tornadoes is another epic weather story: Flooding in the central U.S. The Mississippi River is projected to hit crests at some locations that it has never hit before since the 1930s, as many feeder rivers are out of their banks and flooding farms, homes and highways. And this is the last thing the central U.S. wants to see: More heavy rain on the way over the next 5 days (HPC rainfall project map linked).
Our part of the next round of rain is likely to come Monday through Wednesday, as the map linked here shows. It appears to be a much different kind of rain than we’ve seen recently, with a low forming southwest of us and tracking along a front that has moved south of us and re-introduced slightly cooler air to the region. The bulk of next week’s rain will likely be an overrunning setup (Gulf moisture moving on top of a cooler air mass near the surface), and it could be quite chilly by Tuesday night with lows in the 40s … and perhaps even colder, cold enough for some snow, along the highest ridgelines — not terribly unusual at 3,500-feet-plus in early May. Severe storms are not likely at all in this kind of setup — perhaps some storminess Monday with the initial cold frontal passage, but there is nothing at this time to suggest any kind of major severe weather outbreak in our region. We are starting to see the beginning of a major pattern change that is likely to bring cooler than normal temperatures several days during the next couple of weeks — and calmer atmospheric dynamics than those that have produced recent violent storms.
But meanwhile, the weekend will be sunny and dry with highs in the 70s, perhaps an 80 or two on Sunday. Mornings will have some chill this weekend — folks in deeper valleys especially west of I-81 may be scraping a little frost Saturday morning.