Severe storms possible Thursday


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Moisture has increased over southern Colorado in the last 24 hours, and ingredients are in place for a few severe thunderstorms Thursday afternoon and evening.

The area of high pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere driving the southwest monsoon has finally shifted east of the Front Range and is centered over the Texas panhandle late Thursday morning. This has allowed the thicker monsoon plume to shift east into Colorado. A wave in the atmosphere will move over across Colorado this afternoon as it works around this seasonal high.

The high pressure center shifting over the Texas panhandle has shifted the monsoon plume to the east.

Additionally, low-level moisture has increased as a front moves across the plains this morning. It appears the front will stall along or just south of the Arkansas River this afternoon. Behind the front, low-level moisture has increased and will help provide potential energy for storms to develop and strengthen later today.

Convective Available Potential Energy (HRRR model) for 2pm Thursday. Storms often develop along the edges of these CAPE tongues, so storms should develop first in the Denver area during the middle afternoon and then a few hours later in the Pikes Peak Region.

The best combination of lift, potential energy, and wind-shear for storm organization looks like it will be over the Palmer Divide and northeast Colorado as storms begin to develop. Early in the life-cycle of the thunderstorms, large hail between 1″-1.5″ in diameter will be the biggest threat.

The yellow shading depicts where storms will have the best environment to organize with strong enough rotating updrafts that could support the development of hail greater than 1″ in diameter.

Most of the storms will move to the northeast today off of the Front Range, and then begin to move in a more easterly direction as they get closer to Kansas. That said, if a storm in the mid to late afternoon begins to take a right turn and move more E or ESE as the rest of the cells are still moving NE, this storm should be closely watched as it would be in an environment that could support tornado production.

This appears most likely to happen if a storm can develop on the southeast side of the Denver metro area and move ESE across Elbert County between about 3 and 5:30 p.m. Several computer models are showing storms in these areas later today.

It’s possible that a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch is issued for parts of eastern Colorado later today. Remember, a WATCH means that conditions are favorable for the development of thunderstorms that might produce severe weather.

The issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado WARNING means that a storm exists that either is or is imminently going to produce severe weather and action should be taken immediately to protect life and property.

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