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Hail, tornadoes to slam Texas to South Dakota

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Hail is typically small, often the size of a penny, but can grow to monstrous sizes. Here is how it’s formed.
USA TODAY

Severe storms, with large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes, are expected to hammer major parts of Tornado Alley from Texas to South Dakota Friday in the first round of violent, unsettled weather that’s expected to last into next week.

The National Weather Service said damaging hail and a few tornadoes are likely in the northern end of the region, straddling Nebraska and South Dakota, and also in west Texas as a high-energy system sweeping in from the Pacific clashes with warm, humid Gulf Coast air.  

AccuWeather meteorologists warn of the likelihood of hailstones so large they could cause serious injury, kill livestock and inflict substantial property damage.

The threat area is almost a textbook description of traditional Tornado Alley: A swath of Plains states, including portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota.

In assessing the likely drama to unfold over the weekend, AccuWeather extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer called it  “one of the more active periods this generation of storm chasers will remember!”

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In a preview of the expected severe weather, more than 40,000 were left without power around Indianapolis after severe storms slammed the area Thursday afternoon, while another severe storm brought large hail to parts of Illinois and Indiana.

Cities in the first wave of severe weather late Friday include Midland, Texas; Dodge City and Goodland, Kansas; North Platte, Grand Island and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sterling, Colorado; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Forecasters warn that the risk of tornadoes – including the large, violent twisters that stay on the ground for several minutes – is likely to extend into the overnight hours, with damaging winds across central and northern Texas into early Saturday.

But there is no end in sight – the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) highlighted a risk area for severe weather through Tuesday at least.

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Earlier this week, the threat area was on the map for 8 straight days: “Pretty sure it’s the first time that all days on the day 4-8 have had contours drawn” since the forecasting tool became operational in 2007, National Severe Storms Laboratory meteorologist Harold Brooks tweeted.

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Storm chasers in Texas got an up-close look at a giant tornado.
USA TODAY

A “storm train” roaring in from the Pacific Ocean will continue move across the Rockies and clash with warm, moist air rolling up from the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the weather chaos, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Paul Walker said. This is normally a dry season for California, he said, but this year the rain has been unrelenting.

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“It’s hard to nail down where the most severe weather and tornadoes will hit over the next few days,” Walker said. “Pay attention to the weather, pay attention to weather alerts, pay attention to local warnings. Just pay attention!”

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