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By the afternoon hours tomorrow we should have a few things going on across Texas. A major wildfire event will be unfolding along and west of Highway 281 – possibly extending to I-35W/I-35 as the dryline pushes east by late afternoon. Winds gusting over 40 MPH will combine with relative humidity values below 20 percent and temperatures in the 80s and 90s. This afternoon and Wednesday have the potential to be major wildfire events. We discussed the fire-weather aspect of our weather in a blog post this morning. This discussion will focus on the weather east of the dryline and the potential for some strong to severe thunderstorms.

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The Storm Prediction Center has placed eastern North Texas, Northeast Texas, and parts of Northeast Texas in an elevated risk of severe weather tomorrow. The primary timeframe would be from 5 PM through the evening. That elevated risk is a level 2 on a 5 scale system – 5 being the highest risk. A marginal risk, level 1 out of 5, includes Central Texas, South-Central Texas, the Coastal Plains, and Southeast Texas. That marginal risk zone would be in effect tomorrow night. Tomorrow’s setup is not one conducive for a significant tornado risk. The primary issues with the strongest storms would be damaging wind gusts over 60 MPH and hail up to the size of ping-pong balls. A brief tornado can’t be ruled out but the overall tornado risk is expected to be very low. As the wise Al Moller said time and time again – when it comes to the atmosphere expect the unexpected. That’s why we’ll keep an eye on things in case we end up with a surprise or two.

A strong cap will be in place for much of the afternoon tomorrow east of the dryline. That cap is expected to prevent most thunderstorm development until better upper level lift arrives after 5 PM. If temperatures are able to warm enough it is possible one or two supercells could fire up off the dryline tomorrow afternoon. Those storms would be the ones we’d have to watch for a isolated tornado along with large hail. What is more likely is that a broken line of thunderstorms will begin developing around 6-7 PM near Interstate 35/35E from Oklahoma south into North Texas. It remains unclear how far south this line may develop. Forecast confidence is moderate that this broke line of storms will develop far enough south to move east and impact Northeast Texas and East Texas tomorrow evening.

The strongest storms in the line could contain large hail and localized damaging wind gusts. A quick quarter to one-half inch of rain may also occur in some locations. Flash flooding is not expected due to the quick movement of the storms and light rain totals. If storms fire in Central Texas or the Hill Country then the risk for isolated large hail and damaging winds would exist across the marginal risk zone. If it becomes more clear the cap will hold then the marginal risk will be trimmed northward. Likewise if it looks more likely storms will develop further south than the elevated risk will be expanded. Overall this is not looking like a major severe weather event by any means of the imagination. Still – it is our spring severe weather season and that itself means we’ll be watching.