FIRST ALERT: Stateline at risk for severe thunderstorms Friday

Extremely volatile pattern to continue into the weekend, beyond
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 7:22 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Say what you will about the recent chilly weather we’ve had over the past week. At least it’s been quiet.

The days ahead are to be anything but quiet, as we’re about to embark on one of the wildest meteorological rides we’ve been on in recent memory.

Clear skies this evening will ultimately yield to cloud cover by early Thursday morning, and clouds are to be with us for the lion’s share of the day. Eventually, as a warm front lifts through the region, showers will begin to break out from mid-afternoon through early evening. The consensus among most of our computer forecast models place the best chances for rain along and north of US-20, though we won’t rule out wet weather at any one place during that time period.

Increasing cloud cover is likely by early Thursday morning.
Increasing cloud cover is likely by early Thursday morning.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)
Clouds stick around Thursday, though southeasterly winds are to allow temperatures to rise into...
Clouds stick around Thursday, though southeasterly winds are to allow temperatures to rise into the 50s.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)
Rain will begin to break out in the afternoon Thursday, with the best chances appearing to be...
Rain will begin to break out in the afternoon Thursday, with the best chances appearing to be north. Many of us will stay dry.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)
Things are to quiet down for a time Thursday evening.
Things are to quiet down for a time Thursday evening.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

Temperatures Thursday will start off in the 20s, though as winds shift from the southeast to more of a southerly direction later in the day, we’re likely to reach the 50° mark for the first time in a week. It’s plausible that our high temperature of 54° may occur Thursday evening as clouds remain intact and southerly winds begin to pick up. The warmer, more moisture-laden air, however, will favor the potential development of new showers and storms after midnight, taking us into the hours leading up to sunrise Friday. It’s important to note that these storms will be scattered, and not all of us are to see them. However, those who do may expect to see heavy rain, frequent lightning, and potentially a brief wind gust. At this point in time, severe weather is not expected with this activity, but it’ll need to be closely monitored.

Many dry hours are promised Thursday night into Friday morning.
Many dry hours are promised Thursday night into Friday morning.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)
Showers and a few thunderstorms are a good bet to occur late Thursday night into early Friday,...
Showers and a few thunderstorms are a good bet to occur late Thursday night into early Friday, but on a scattered basis.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

During the day Friday, one’s to expect a good amount of dry time, to go along with undoubtedly our warmest temperatures of the year. Current projections suggest temperatures are to surge to near 70° by Friday afternoon, and it’ll feel considerably muggy as well. But as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. That’s because the warm, humid atmosphere in place will provide a fertile breeding ground for scattered showers early in the day, and potentially some much more serious weather in the latter half of the day.

A few widely scattered showers and storms are possible early Friday.
A few widely scattered showers and storms are possible early Friday.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)
Widely scattered shower activity is possible around midday Friday, though many of us will be dry.
Widely scattered shower activity is possible around midday Friday, though many of us will be dry.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

The time period we’re most focused on is that between approximately 2:00pm and 10:00pm Friday. Initial activity is likely to spawn in the Stateline or very nearby in the early to mid-afternoon hours. These storms are likely to produce very heavy rain, frequent lightning, and could contain hail and gusty winds.

Gusty thunderstorms may quickly blossom Friday afternoon.
Gusty thunderstorms may quickly blossom Friday afternoon.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

At that same time, showers and a few storms will just be getting going to our west along the I-35 corridor in Iowa. Those are the ones we’ll really want to be watching, as they are the ones that appear likely to pack the greatest punch.

Come 4:00 Friday afternoon, those storms are to have grown considerably in both size and intensity, and it’s likely the National Weather Service will be issuing warnings by then.

Explosive storm development is likely to occur over eastern Iowa and northern Missouri late...
Explosive storm development is likely to occur over eastern Iowa and northern Missouri late Friday afternoon.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

It won’t be long after that these storms cross the Mississippi River and enter Illinois. If there’s good news to be found, it’s that with the sun setting and the air becoming a bit more stable, some weakening MAY occur, but that’s not to be counted on as guaranteed.

Strong to severe thunderstorms are to fire late Friday afternoon into early Friday evening.
Strong to severe thunderstorms are to fire late Friday afternoon into early Friday evening.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

More storms will still be firing in Iowa at that time, and many of those are likely to work through the Stateline as the evening progresses.

The severe weather outlook from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center remains largely unchanged. It places the southwestern half of our area under a Level 3, Enhanced Risk for severe weather, with the northeastern half in a still dangerous Level 2, Slight Risk.

You may recall, the Stateline was placed in the Level 3, Enhanced Risk as early as Monday. The last time we found ourselves under that high of a risk that far in advance of a storm, you may ask? You’d have to go back to April 9, 2015. That, you may recall as having been the date of the deadly Fairdale tornado. That’s not to say this scenario will play out the same way. Instead, it’s to show there’s a high degree of confidence in there being a potentially significant severe weather event.

The southwestern half of the viewing area is under a Level 3, Enhanced Risk for severe weather...
The southwestern half of the viewing area is under a Level 3, Enhanced Risk for severe weather on Friday.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

As for the specific risks we’ll face, all severe weather modes are in play with this event. Gusty winds of up to 75mph pose the most widespread threat, though tornadoes are a very real possibility as well. Hail is less likely to be a major issue, but isn’t to be ruled out, and flash flooding is also in the conversation.

All modes of severe weather are in play Friday, with gusty winds and tornadoes expected to be...
All modes of severe weather are in play Friday, with gusty winds and tornadoes expected to be the main severe threat.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

Once severe thunderstorms move out of the area, gusty winds will remain a factor. Northwesterly winds will gust up to 45mph behind the storms, importing much colder air to the region, potentially cold enough to change rain over to snow.

Morning snow showers are a good bet early Saturday, a day that will see high temperatures not get out of the 40s once again.

If you’re looking for the pick day of the weekend, it’s unequivocally Sunday. We’ll expect a partly cloudy sky with temperatures heading back close to 60°.