Tornadoes touch down in Kansas, Oklahoma

Tornadoes touch down in Kansas, Oklahoma
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POSTED: Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 5:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 5:04pm

At least two tornadoes touched down in two states on Sunday as severe weather swept the region.

A large "violent and extremely dangerous" tornado was spotted on the southwest side of Wichita, Kansas, moving northeast at about 30 miles per hour, the National Weather Service said.

A second confirmed tornado was seen near Edmond, Oklahoma, moving east at about 30 miles per hour, said the weather service. Another tornado was spotted in nearby Luther, Oklahoma, but it was not immediately clear whether that was the same tornado.

Also, an apparent tornado touched down near Wellston, Oklahoma, taking out power lines and damaging several homes, according to video from CNN affiliate KFOR. The affiliate's helicopter pilot estimated the funnel cloud to be about a half-mile wide.

"It's tearing up everything," the pilot said. "Just ripping everything up in its sight."

The weather service did not mince words either.

"You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter. Complete destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals," it said in its Kansas advisory.

The twisters are part of a severe weather outbreak that is sweeping through parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and possibly Iowa and Missouri.

Baseball-sized hail, wind gusts and tornadoes are threatening to pummel parts of the central Plains and Midwest on Sunday and Monday.

"Overall, the threat is similar for the region: strong supercells that will have the capability to produce hail baseball-size or larger, strong wind gusts and tornadoes," CNN meteorologist Melissa Le Fevre said earlier Sunday. "It will ultimately depends on how warm the region gets today."

According to the weather service, supercells are a special type of thunderstorm that can last for many hours. "They are responsible for nearly all of the significant tornadoes produced in the U.S. and for most of the hailstones larger than golf ball size," the weather service says. "Supercells are also known to produce extreme winds and flash flooding."

Warmer temperatures are an important factor, Le Fevre said.

"Warmer temperatures allow for the air in the atmosphere to mix, which causes it to be unstable," she said. "Sunny days are essentially more unstable, which allows thunderstorms to develop and become strong to severe."

Beyond the Midwest, other areas were already seeing severe weather on Sunday. In Atlanta, serious flooding was reported amid storms producing heavy rainfall.

Here's a look at Le Fevre's forecast for several states:

Kansas

Sunday: With Kansas temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above average for this time of year, supercells could develop. The storms could bring destructive hail and possible tornadoes for the afternoon, transitioning to damaging winds and heavy rain through the evening. Baseball-sized hail cannot be ruled out.

Monday: The surface front may stall on Monday, leading to showers and thunderstorms through the day. Localized heavy rainfall may lead to the need for flood watches and warnings.

Oklahoma

Sunday: Storms were expected to develop after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. ET). Again, the threat of discrete supercells capable of producing large hail and tornadoes is present.

Monday: There is a similar threat for strong storms in the late afternoon. With the heavy rain that will occur through the weekend, flooding could become a problem Monday night.

Iowa

Sunday: The greatest potential for severe weather will be in the late afternoon and into the early evening. Large hail could be the greatest threat. According to the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, the southern and western parts of the state could see the greatest chance for tornadoes. Overall, the main threat appears to be hail and wind. Rain is expected to decrease overnight.

Monday: Showers and storms are once again expected to develop on Monday afternoon. Large hail is possible and though the tornado threat looks low, it cannot be ruled out.

Missouri

Sunday: Strong supercells and squall lines are forecast to develop in the late afternoon and continue into the early evening. The discrete cells will develop first before transitioning into squall lines or lines of storms. As before, the threats include very large hail and damaging winds along with the potential for tornadoes. Some of these could be strong. In St. Louis, the potential for severe thunderstorms will be present through the afternoon on Sunday. Large hail is expected to be the primary threat. Heading into the evening hours, damaging wind should pose the greatest threat.

Monday: Flooding is expected to become an issue after localized heavy rainfall. The weather pattern will not change drastically from Sunday to Monday, which is why we are still seeing a potential for severe weather for the start to the week. Again, afternoon storms could produce large hail, damaging wind gusts and possible tornadoes. In St. Louis, storms will reorganize during the afternoon and evening hours. Threats include large hail, damaging winds and the possibility of tornadoes.

CNN's Sean Morris and Alexandra Steele contributed to this report 

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