Wichita in the cross hairs as tornado outbreak looms on the Great Plains

A widespread outbreak of large tornadoes is expected across the central Great Plains today, stretching from Oklahoma to Nebraska and covering most of central and eastern Kansas.

Here is a map showing the Storm Prediction Center’s latest outlook for today.

“The risk is about as high as it gets,” AccuWeather.com chief meteorologist Elliot Abrams said in a prepared statement.

Oklahoma City and Wichita lie in the heart of the tornado threat area that extends from near Wichita Falls, Texas, to near Omaha, Neb. Abrams expects numerous damaging thunderstorms to form after 4 p.m. and continue through much of the night. This outbreak could produce dozens of tornadoes.

A hazardous weather outlook statement from the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service is predictably ominous:

“An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes appears likely across the area for this evening and tonight. Some of the tornadoes could be strong and long-lived with a good chance that they will continue well after sunset this evening, when they will be difficult to see. There is also a good chance that the isolated supercell thunderstorms will produce baseball size hail and damaging winds to 70 miles per hour. The highest threat for strong tornadoes exists along a line from Salina to Newton to Wichita to Wellington.

AccuWeather Vice President Mike Smith offers insight on today’s storms. He’s saying storms could begin developing as early as noon, so prepare early and be vigilant.