Storm system spawns tornadoes across Midwest, heads for Carolinas

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A powerful storm system moved through the country's midsection this weekend causing significant damage from Texas to Iowa.

There were reports of at least 120 tornadoes including a twister that touched down in Woodward, OK, killing five people.

In Thurman, IA 75-percent of the town was destroyed when a large tornado ripped through the town of about 250 people.

Now that same system is heading East toward the Carolinas.  Should we expect a similar situation here?

Thankfully, no.  In the Midwest, all the ingredients came together for a significant tornado outbreak.

First, there was a plentiful supply of warm, moist air over the middle of the country, giving these storms plenty of fuel.  Next, throughout the atmosphere, we saw very strong winds.  In the upper levels, a strong jet streak was present.

A jet streak is basically a pocket of very fast-moving air embedded within the jet stream.  This pocket destabilizes the air in its vicinity, and can promote storm formation.

In the lower levels, what is referred to as a low level jet was present.  About a mile above Earth's surface, strong winds were feeding a steady supply of warm, moist air to these storms as well as destabilizing the atmosphere.

Additionally, and very important for tornado development was the change in direction of these winds as you travel higher above the surface.  What we call vertical wind shear was very strong in the Midwest this weekend, and it's necessary for causing rotation in thunderstorms that could spawn tornadoes.

In the Carolinas, warm, moist air will be plentiful, but upper level winds will be much less conducive for tornado formation.  Winds are much weaker overall, and we're not forecasting strong vertical wind shear in our area.

That said, there will still be a chance of thunderstorms beginning Monday night with storms likely on Tuesday.  Some of these storms could produce damaging straight-line winds, so it will still be important to monitor these storms as they roll through.

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