While it is a sunny, warm day for us on Sunday, with highs that will reach the upper 70s to mid 80s over much of Southwest Virginia, it will be a day of damage assessment, cleanup and perhaps even more taking shelter in the central U.S. There were more than 100 reports of tornadoes on Saturday, with more severe weather expected overnight into Sunday. About 75 percent of the town of Thurman, Iowa, population 250, was destroyed, a hospital was hit in Creston, Iowa, and perhaps most ominously, a large tornado cut a swath into the southern and eastern parts of the metro area of Wichita, Kan., just before midnight Eastern time. The full extent of damage and casualties is not known as I type this just after midnight, but it appears to be substantial based on some early reports trickling out. You can follow the latest news reports from The Associated Press, linked here.
The storm system causing the mayhem in the central U.S. now will affect us by midweek — perhaps as early as Tuesday, more likely Wednesday. The stronger upper-air dynamics with the storm are likely to lift northeastward, staying well to our north and west, but the counterclockwise circulation of a low-pressure system will continue to drag warmth (highs in the 80s Monday, maybe Tuesday) and, finally, some Gulf of Mexico moisture northward. That will be a mixed blessing for fighting the ongoing Easter Complex of wildfires in the mountains of western Virginia — warmer temperatures and perhaps some breeziness will not be good for fighting the fires, but increasing humidity, and perhaps some rain at midweek, will be. Forecasts have shifted back and forth on how much rain will fall. With the main dynamics of the storm staying away from us, we are not expected to have anything close to the severe outbreak the central U.S. is having (though some strong storms will be possible as a cold front cuts into warm, relatively moist air), but we also may not get much rain. The current Hydrometeorological Prediction Center 5-day rainfall projection map is for generally less than a half-inch across our region – down significantly from up to an inch on an earlier map. Our developing dryness would not be quelled much if that comes to pass.