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Tornadoes, Severe Storms & Intense Heat Threaten Memorial Day Weekend Plans

  • >  Sweltering heat from Texas to the Carolinas
    > Risk of severe thunderstorms in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Monday
  • >  Threat of tornadoes and flooding in the Plains & Midwest
  • >  Storms could impact towns recovering from recent extreme weather impacts
  • >  Growing fire risk in parts of the Southwest
  • >  Cool conditions along the western Great Lakes & Upper Midwest


May 24, 2024

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AccuWeather Global Weather Center – May 24, 2024


Severe storms and sweltering heat could impact travel plans and outdoor events for millions of people over the Memorial Day weekend.


There is a threat of tornadoes, hail, and flash flooding that could impact communities that were recently hit hard by extreme weather and are still in the clean-up and recovery process.  


“We can’t seem to get rid of this severe weather; it has been relentless over the past month,” said AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.




A line of damaging thunderstorms that formed Thursday evening and raced across Nebraska and Iowa eventually formed into a derecho, according to AccuWeather expert meteorologists. The storms led to damaging wind gusts and multiple tornado warnings Friday morning.




“Derechos are a dangerous situation. It can feel like a ‘mini hurricane’ in these areas because we’re talking about hurricane-force wind gusts. They can do a lot of damage in a short period of time,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter. “This is the time of the year when you do get derechos across parts of the Midwest, especially as we head through the next couple of months when the heat and humidity continue to build. That’s fuel to help build and intensify these complexes of severe thunderstorms that can intensify into a derecho.”


Travel plans could be disrupted Friday, AccuWeather expert meteorologists issued a ‘moderate risk’ of severe thunderstorms in the Chicago and Dallas metro areas.  




Severe Weather Threats Over Holiday Weekend


AccuWeather Expert Meteorologists say dangerous and disruptive thunderstorms will erupt and advance from the central United States to the East Coast over the holiday weekend.  




“We are entering a very stormy period that coincides with the first unofficial weekend of summer,” said Rayno. “Our next round of energy is coming in from the West Coast. This will produce severe weather outbreaks Saturday in the Plains, and then Sunday across the Tennessee and lower Ohio Valleys.”




Downpours, powerful wind gusts, hail, and flash flooding could ruin outdoor gatherings and events, including holiday parades and family cookouts.  


The threat of severe thunderstorms will escalate on Saturday afternoon into the late-night hours. AccuWeather expert meteorologists issued a ‘high risk’ for severe thunderstorms across central and northeast Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, northwest Arkansas, and southwest Missouri.   




Severe thunderstorms could produce tornadoes, hail, and localized damaging wind gusts above 70 mph. Severe weather could impact communities like Barnsdall, Oklahoma, which is still recovering from major tornado damage.  


Wind gusts in the most severe storms in the ‘high risk’ area could approach 100 mph, which is the same intensity as a Category 2 hurricane.   


The severe weather threat will shift to the east on Sunday with a ‘high risk’ of severe thunderstorms over southeast Illinois, southern Indiana, northwest Kentucky, and southwest Ohio.  



Thunderstorms may threaten the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. More than 300,000 people attended the world-famous race last year. With severe thunderstorms in the forecast, attendees and staff should prepare for weather-related delays or postponements.  


“Unfortunately, we are talking about two days of dangerous weather setups with a tornado threat, a risk for damaging wind gusts, large hail, and flash flooding,” said Porter. These threats on a holiday weekend are always a concern.” 


The risk of severe thunderstorms expands east from the Carolinas through parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Memorial Day. Cities that could be impacted by severe weather on Monday include Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, and Myrtle Beach. A cool breeze from the Atlantic Ocean may limit severe weather in New York City and Boston until later in the day or after dark.  




With millions of people expected outdoors over the holiday weekend, AccuWeather expert meteorologists urge people to stay connected to weather alerts, treat severe weather watches and warnings seriously, and to immediately move indoors if there’s lightning or thunder in the area.  


Lightning can be deadly and could occur even when severe thunderstorm warnings are not issued in your area. Lightning alerts are now available for free in the United States on the AccuWeather app.  


“On a holiday weekend when there’s going to be many people outdoors, as soon as you hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. That’s the time you need to move inside and get to a safe building or vehicle,” said Porter. “All thunderstorms can produce lightning; it doesn’t have to be a severe thunderstorm. When we’re talking about a weekend with lots of thunderstorm activity across parts of central and eastern United States, lightning is a big concern.” 


Tornado Reports Continue To Climb  


More than 900 preliminary tornado reports have been filed across America so far this year, well ahead of the historical average of 673.  



The states of Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Missouri lead the nation in tornado reports as of May 24.  




Scorching Heat For The Unofficial Kickoff To Summer 


Millions of people will experience intense heat from along the Gulf Coast states through the Carolinas over the holiday weekend.  




AccuWeather RealFeel high temperatures are forecast to soar near or above 100 degrees on Sunday in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami.  


Heat will intensify in Central Florida, southeast Texas, and much of Louisiana on Monday. Some areas could experience AccuWeather RealFeel high temperatures near or above 110 degrees.   




People spending extended amounts of time outdoors in the heat are encouraged to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and take breaks in the shade or air-conditioned areas to avoid heat-related illness and dehydration.  


“Just be extra careful not to leave kids, vulnerable people, or pets inside cars. They can get incredibly hot, turning into a life-threatening situation in a matter of just a few minutes,” warned Porter. “So many tragedies have happened in recent years. It can happen to anyone who gets distracted or caught off guard.” 


Fire Concerns In The Southwest 


Strong wind gusts, low humidity, and dried-out vegetation has led to a high risk of fires sparking and spreading in parts of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado on Friday. 




Travelers and campers in the area are urged to use caution with campfires or open flames that could spark a fire.  


This weekend will offer generally safe camping and hiking weather in much of the Southwest. Unlike the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays, when midday and afternoon thunderstorms bring threats of lightning strikes, few, if any, thunderstorms are in the forecast this weekend. 



Cool Conditions In The Upper Midwest 


Light jackets may be needed at times for outdoor events and gatherings in parts of Michigan, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas over the holiday weekend.  


Daily highs will only reach the 60s in places like Bemidji, Minnesota. The weekend will kickoff with a frosty Friday night when temperatures are forecast to dip down to the 30s.  




The region is home to more than 30,000 natural lakes and are a popular attraction for fishing and water sports. Many businesses in the area are trying to rebound from a mild winter that was virtually free of ice and snow, costing an estimated $8 billion in economic damage and losses. 


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