Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible Wednesday across portions of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley, though a few uncertainties remain on how the risk will evolve. We continue to anticipate that large hail and damaging winds are the most likely threats, though a few tornadoes are also possible, mainly along and south of Interstate 40.
The timing of this system brings a lot of concern, as the majority of the severe weather is expected to occur during the nighttime hours. Storms could fire off as early as 8 p.m. and last until 2 a.m., but the greatest risk is anticipated around midnight. Have a way to receive warnings tonight (such as a weather radio) so you can be alerted if severe weather does strike.
As of 9 a.m., the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has most of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley under a Slight Risk of severe weather (Level 2 out of 5). This includes the Fort Smith and Fayetteville areas. Most of Benton County and SW Missouri are currently under a Marginal Risk of severe weather (Level 1 out of 5). This includes Bentonville, Rogers and Bella Vista, though if confidence increases that instability will surge far enough north, we could see the Slight Risk extended into these areas. An Enhanced Risk of severe weather is in Central and Eastern Arkansas, where the greatest confidence exists in the severe weather potential.
As previously mentioned, the extent of instability and coverage of storms are still uncertain. Instability is the fuel that thunderstorms need to maintain their strength, and if that is stunted the severe weather risk will be much lower. This is another system where the instability will try rushing in at the last possible moment, so careful monitoring of the latest forecast trends will be needed. In terms of storm coverage, most of the models indicate that everyone will see storms in some form or fashion tonight, so confidence is increasing in this aspect.
As always, continue to follow the latest forecasts from Your Weather Authority team, as more information comes in over the next several hours. Prepare for the potential of severe weather, and have an emergency plan in place in case you are impacted tonight. Follow us on social media for more updates, and stay safe tonight!