Severe storms expected east of mountains Tuesday

A timelapse of a rotating thunderstorm updraft near Castle Rock in 2019.

A timelapse of a rotating thunderstorm updraft near Castle Rock in 2019.

Severe thunderstorms are expected over eastern Colorado Tuesday afternoon and evening. A key to the forecast is where the western edge of the low-level moisture is when storms develop in the early afternoon.

There is reports of a lot of broken windows and other damage to homes and cars reported around Rush. A viewer said they’ll be heading out to help board up windows soon.

Dry air has been pushing off of the hills early Tuesday so many parts of El Paso County have seen sunshine earlier than what happened on Monday. A battle will take place between the dry and more moist air as we hit the middle of the day. Terrain and depth of the moisture play a big role on where this boundary ends up as storms fire. It is most likely to be right on top of Pueblo and from the south side of Colorado Springs to eastern El Paso County around 1 p.m.

Where the moisture ends up is important because storms will fire up on its western edge. The storms that develop here will become stronger as they move east through the afternoon, moving into an environment with deeper moisture and more fuel for the storms to use.

Storm-Cast has been consistent through the morning, developing stronger storms right along this moisture gradient about 1 p.m. You can see in the image above that the storms firing east of Colorado Springs and near Pueblo have darker reds in the depicted radar, while anything farther west will be much weaker and in many cases have virga that doesn’t reach the ground due to the dry sub-cloud layer.

The biggest concern today is for large hail. As the storms move east and the updrafts get stronger, hail between 1″ and 2″ in diameter may fall from the strongest storms. Any storms that have a more southerly movement to them will be the strongest storms and those may have a brief window where hail larger than 2″ in diameter could occur. This is most likely over the plains to the north of Highway 50 in the area hatched in white.

As the storms progress east they will begin to form clusters or lines as they approach the Kansas state line. This transition will decrease the diameter of any hail being produced by the storms and will increase the threat for damaging straight-line winds.

It’s highly likely that a Severe Thunderstorm Watch will be issued for eastern Colorado Tuesday afternoon. A Watch means the ingredients are in place for severe thunderstorms, but those ingredients may not have yet been used. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued for a county or part of a county when a thunderstorm is producing severe weather or when severe weather is imminent.

Know the difference. A Watch means pay attention. A Warning means take action and put your severe weather plan in motion.

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