After a below-average number of nationwide tornadoes in April, conditions are coming together for a stormy weather pattern to continue in May.

The Storm Prediction Center reported only 73 tornadoes across the United States in April, well short of the three-year April average of 224. May has already produced more than 100 tornado reports.

Violent thunderstorms ravaged portions of southern Louisiana late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, blowing down trees and power lines across much of New Orleans’ Uptown section. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that a tornado with estimated peak winds of 85 mph caused the damage. Farther west, flooding downpours and high winds wreaked havoc on eastern Texas, where a wind gust of 48 mph was recorded in Huntsville, about 70 miles north of Houston.

More rounds of unsettled weather are coming this weekend into early next week. However, the focus will be centered over portions of the Plains rather than the Deep South.

As high pressure builds in the South and East, these regions will be largely dry this weekend. But a southerly wind flow will send Gulf of Mexico moisture into the Plains, helping to increase humidity. This, along with an unstable air mass and slow-moving frontal boundaries, will set the stage for thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

A series of weak disturbances will track eastward along the fronts, heading from the Rockies into the Plains. The process begins Friday, continues through the weekend and may last into early next week.

These disturbances could trigger storms that produce scattered areas of severe winds, large hail, isolated tornadoes and flash flooding each day. The best chances for these intense storms will be from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to eastern Colorado and western Kansas. However, locally severe storms could hit other areas as far south as western Texas, as far north as Minnesota and as far east as Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Other notable weekend weather

The risk of wildfires sparking and spreading will increase Friday in southwestern Colorado and southern Utah. The threat in Utah may linger into Saturday. Daytime humidity will be very low, less than 15%, with wind gusts up to 35 mph.

There’s also a risk of wildfires Friday afternoon and evening in parts of far northern California and southern Oregon. This is due to lightning from thunderstorms that could strike the very dry ground.

The NWS has issued a red flag warning for these areas, which are all suffering from extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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